Kernicterus (Bilirubin Encephalopathy)

  • Reinhard L. Friede


The first report of kernicterus is generally attributed to Orth (1875), although his description is somewhat unclear and emphasizes staining of the superficial portions of brain tissue in the ventricular walls and at the hemispheric surface. The first comprehensive description of the disease was given by Schmorl (1903) who distinguished two types of cerebral lesions in icteric infants. One type consisted of a diffuse staining of the tissue and was found in infants with periventricular infarcts. This type of lesion has rarely been reported in the subsequent literature. The second type, called kernicterus by Schmorl, was observed in six infants who showed selective icteric discoloration of the subthalamic nuclei, Ammon’s horn, lentiform nuclei, and dentate and olivary nuclei; the thalamus and cerebral cortex were spared. An intense yellow discoloration of many, though not all, of the nerve cells and a delicate staining of the intervening tissue were observed microscopically in the affected nuclei. The early literature on subsequent case reports was reviewed by Zimmerman and Yannet (1933) and Péu and Pollet (1939). The term kernicterus is now generally used to designate the pathologic lesions as well as the clinical features of the disease.


Subthalamic Nucleus Neonatal Hyperbilirubinemia Marble State Nuclear Group Cranial Nerve Nucleus 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Reinhard L. Friede
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Case Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  2. 2.University of ZurichSwitzerland

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