Transcutaneous bilirubin measurement: A multicenter evaluation of a new device

Firmino F. Rubaltelli, Glenn R. Gourley, Norbert Loskamp, Neena Modi, Matthias Roth-Kleiner, Alfred Sender, Paul Vert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Scopus citations


Objectives. The early discharge of neonates from hospitals makes transcutaneous measurement of total bilirubin concentration a useful tool to monitor neonatal jaundice. The objectives of this study were to determine whether 1) transcutaneous bilirubin (TcB) measurement, as performed using BiliCheck (BC), correlates with total serum bilirubin (TSB) levels, measured with standard laboratory methods and with high-pressure liquid chromatography (HPLC-B); 2) infant race, gestational age, postnatal age, or body weight interferes with the measurement of TcB levels in newborn infants; 3) the variability of the TcB measurement is comparable to the variability of TSB measurements; and 4) TcB measurements obtained from the forehead (BCF) and sternum (BCS) generate comparable results. Study Design. Newborn infants who were <28 days and >30 weeks' gestational age and who underwent tests for TSB as part of their normal care in 6 different European hospitals were studied. A total of 210 infants were enrolled in the study, 35 at each site. Near simultaneous (within ± 30 minutes) blood collection for TSB and BCF and BCS measurements were performed. TSB levels were determined by the serum bilirubin method in use at each site, and all HPLC-B determinations were made at the same, independent laboratory. Results. The study group consisted of 140 white, 31 Asian, 14 Hispanic, 9 African, and another 16 newborns of different races. The correlation coefficient (r) between BCF and HPLC-B was 0.890 (95% confidence interval = 0.858-0.915). BCF and BCS generated similar results (r value = 0.890 for BCF and 0.881 for BCS), even if BCS slightly overestimated (mean error = -0.04 mg/dL) and BCF slightly underestimated (mean error = 0.96 mg/dL) in comparison with HPLC-B. Analysis of covariance demonstrated that BC accuracy was independent of race, birth weight, gestational age, and postnatal age of the newborn. Receiver operating characteristic curves were evaluated for BCF and TSB, each compared with HPLC-B. With the use of a cutoff point for HPLC-B of 13 mg/dL (222 μmol/L) and a cutoff of 11 mg/dL on the BCF and TSB, similar sensitivity/specificity (93%/73% for BCF, 95%/76% for TSB) were observed. The use of a cutoff point for HPLC-B of 17 mg/dL (290 μmol/L) and 14 mg/dL (240 μmol/L) for BCF and TSB also produced similar sensitivity/specificity (90%/87% for the BC and 87%/83% for TSB). Conclusions. Because the correlation coefficient for HPLC-B and BCF is very similar to that found for HPLC-B and laboratory TSB, BC could be used not only as a screening device but also as a reliable substitute of TSB determination. At higher levels of TSB, in which phototherapy and/or exchange transfusion might be considered, BC performed slightly better than the laboratory. The accuracy and precision of the TcB measurement in this study was observed to be comparable to the standard of care laboratory test.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1264-1271
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Bilirubin
  • Jaundice
  • Kernicterus
  • Laboratory bilirubin determination
  • Newborn
  • Transcutaneous bilirubin measurement


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