What is Neonatal hypoglycemia?

Neonatal hypoglycemia is when a baby is born and is unable to control its own blood sugars for one reason or another. Hypoglycemia is simply low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can be very dangerous because low blood sugar means that your body is not metabolizing sugar appropriately and that can result in permanent brain injury. 

How is Neonatal hypoglycemia diagnosed?

There are multiple ways that health care providers such as neonatologists can measure blood sugars in babies. One way is to do a heel stick and use an I-Stat glucometer to measure the blood sugar right on the spot. This is similar to the process undertaken by patients who have diabetes and need to check their blood sugars multiple times throughout the day.

Another way to check blood sugars in a baby is to do a serum glucose test. That is akin to taking blood from the baby and sending it down to the lab and they run it through a machine and that gives an indication of the glucose or the blood sugar levels.

How is Neonatal hypoglycemia treated?

Managing babies with low blood sugar is of critical importance because of the fact that low blood sugar, severely low blood sugar, or chronically low blood sugar can result in permanent brain damage to a baby.

Most babies with neonatal hypoglycemia are premature babies. Because of their prematurity they are even more fragile than a term baby, or a baby who has reached its full gestation. Premature babies in the NICU are monitored very closely for low blood sugar and a lab will contain set reference ranges for blood sugars. It is generally accepted that a newborn’s blood sugar should be above 40 milligrams per deciliter or mg/dl. When blood sugars drop below 40 health care providers such as neonatologists and critical care nurse practitioners are required to act and treat the low blood sugar.

If a healthcare provider fails to adequately treat and respond to low blood sugar and allows a baby’s blood sugar to drop to dangerous levels such as in the teens or all the way down to zero, that can be actionable malpractice if it results in permanent brain damage to the baby.

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