Research Highlight

Optical device monitors jaundice, phototherapy outcome in newborns

doi:10.1038/nindia.2020.110 Published online 18 July 2020

Researchers have invented an optical device that can measure elevated blood levels of bilirubin in jaundice-afflicted newborns1

This device, the researchers say, is potentially useful for monitoring the outcome of phototherapy, which uses light to remove excess bilirubin in the blood. In future, the device may replace the need for painful blood tests.

Jaundice, which occurs when bilirubin levels increase abnormally in their blood, affects most newborns, and carries the risk of brain damage. Existing kits for measuring bilirubin in blood are painful and inefficient.

In search of a better device, scientists from the S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, the Nil Ratan Sircar Medical College & Hospital, and the University of Calcutta, all in Kolkata, India, fabricated the optical device, using illumination and collection fibres, which are connected to a halogen light source and a detector.

The researchers tested the safety and efficacy of the device in newborns with high bilirubin levels. The device illuminated the nail bed blood vessels of the newborns with a light of particular intensity, and the collection fibres collected the light reflected from the nail bed.

The reflected light, which carries the information from the blood, then reaches the detector. A computing unit connected to the detector then analysed the optical data, revealing and displaying the bilirubin levels on a monitor.

Since the device collects data from the blood rather than skin, it helps measure accurate blood bilirubin levels in babies with risk factors and babies undergoing phototherapy, the researchers say.


1. Halder, A. et al. Large scale validation of a new noninvasive and noncontact bilirubinometer in neonates with risk factors. Sci. Rep. 10, 11149 (2020)