Neonatal jaundice (icterus neonatorium) is caused by the excessive accumulation of bilirubin, a byproduct of the red blood cells decomposition. Shortly after birth, newborn babies carry a very high level of red blood cells and thus a high concentration of bilirubin. If a baby�s liver is premature, it cannot process the bilirubin as quickly as its body produces. The excessive bilirubin then flows out of the bloodstream and permeates to the body surface causing yellow-colored skin and sclera of the eye and inside lining of the mouth. If jaundice is left untreated, the infant can develop Kernicterus, a form of permanent brain damage. In this paper, we derive a mathematical model for the mass transport of the bilirubin concentration in the human body using the Mass Balance Law. We also incorporate into the model three types of treatments: blood transfusion, phototherapy, and medication. Our goal is, by observing the bilirubin concentration in the blood, to find the optimal treatment(s) to bring the concentration of bilirubin down to a normal level. We will also develop a program that automatically chooses the treatments based on the severity of the bilirubin level.

Author Bio

This work was done under the guidance of Dr. Charles Lee. I took a mathematical modeling class with him in Fall 2001. This project was first given as a class final project, but I felt that there were many things left undiscovered about this subject so I asked two of my classmates, Shazia and Lorena, to collaborate with me to do further research on this project. It took us a year to finally complete it. I have presented our results at several conferences, including the 2003 MAA & AMS Annual Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The International Congress on Biological and Medical Engineering honored this paper the Outstanding Paper Award and this paper won first place in the 2003 All-CSU Research Competition in the Undergraduate Physical Sciences Category.