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Bilirubin Blood Test: About Your Child's Test

What is a bilirubin test?

This test measures the amount of bilirubin in your child's blood. When bilirubin levels are high, your child's skin and whites of the eyes may look yellow (jaundice). High levels in newborns are often caused by the breakdown of extra blood cells and a liver that isn't yet able to get rid of extra bilirubin very well. This sometimes needs treatment. High levels may also be caused by liver disease.

Why is this test done?

The test is used to:

  • Help decide if newborn babies with jaundice need treatment.
  • Check how well your child's liver is working.
  • Check for the effects of medicines that can damage the liver.
  • Find out if something is blocking the bile ducts.
  • Watch for signs of liver disease, such as hepatitis or cirrhosis.

How do you prepare for the test?

In general, there's nothing you have to do before this test, unless your doctor tells you to.

How is the test done?

  • A health professional uses a needle to take a blood sample, usually from the arm.
  • In babies, a heel stick is used to get a blood sample. The baby's heel is poked, and several drops of blood are collected. Your baby may have a tiny bruise where the heel was poked.

How long does the test take?

The test will take a few minutes.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your child's test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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