For evaluation of jaundiced neonates, serum bilirubin (SB) or transcutaneous bilirubinometry (TcB) is used. Few data are available on the quantitative reduction of blood sampling by using TcB.
We conducted a randomized controlled trial in hospitalized jaundiced neonates ≥32 weeks’ gestational age. In the intervention group, TcB was used and in the control group the decision to obtain a blood sample for SB was based on visual and clinical assessment. Outcome measure was the number of blood samples before phototherapy. When TcB was <50 µmol/L below the threshold for phototherapy, SB was obtained. The decision to start treatment was always based on an SB value.
A total of 430 were randomized and included in the intention-to-treat analysis: 213 in the TcB group and 217 in the control group. In the TcB group, 104 (48.4%) had at least 1 blood sample taken for SB, versus 172 (79.3%) in the control group (difference 30.5%, 95% confidence interval 21.5–38.7, P < .001). The number of blood draws was significantly reduced by 38.5% (0.9 ± 1.1 vs 1.3 ± 1.0, difference –0.5, 95% confidence interval –0.7 to –0.3, P < .001). Peak of bilirubin value, indications for phototherapy, or exchange transfusion and hospitalization length were not different between groups.
The use of TcB in jaundiced neonates is feasible and safe, resulting in a reduction of more than one-third in blood draws.