Action spectrum of phototherapy in hyperbilirubinemic neonates

Finn Ebbesen*, Mette L Donneborg, Pernille K Vandborg, Hendrik J Vreman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Phototherapy with blue light matching plasma absorption spectrum of the bilirubin-albumin complex with peak at 460 nm is standard treatment of neonatal hyperbilirubinemia.

AIM: To demonstrate clinically the action (efficacy) spectrum of phototherapy in hyperbilirubinemic neonates, through determination of the fraction of total serum bilirubin (TSB) decreased by phototherapy with peak emission wavelengths ≥478 nm (blue-green) compared with that of light of 459/452 nm (blue).

METHODS: TSB values were compiled from three earlier trials, in which hyperbilirubinemic neonates were randomized to receive 24 h of either blue-green light (478/490/497 nm) (intervention groups) or blue light (459/452/459 nm) (control groups) with equal irradiance and exposed body surface areas. Ratios (efficacy) between the decrease in TSB between intervention and control groups were calculated and graphed versus peak wavelengths, demonstrating the course of the action spectrum.

RESULTS: Calculated efficacy ratios were 1.31, 1.18, and 1.04 for light with peak wavelengths of 478, 490, and 497 nm, respectively. The action spectrum increases from 452/459 to maximum at 478 nm, from where it decreases to 1.18 and finally to 1.04.

CONCLUSION: For optimal phototherapeutic treatment, neonates need to be exposed to light with peak wavelength some 20 nm longer than is presently used.

IMPACT: The action (efficacy) spectrum of phototherapy for hyperbilirubinemic neonates has its peak wavelength at 478 nm. The peak wavelength of this action spectrum is 20 nm longer than the wavelength presently believed to be most efficient. The peak is also different from the peak found in vitro. For optimal phototherapeutic effect, neonates need to be treated with light of wavelengths some 20 nm longer than are presently used.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)816–821
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 17 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to the International Pediatric Research Foundation, Inc.


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