Two meta-analyses concluded that jaundice was associated with an increased risk of autism. We hypothesize that these findings were due to methodological limitations of the studies included. Neonatal jaundice affects many infants and risks of later morbidity may prompt physicians towards more aggressive treatment.
To conduct a systematic literature review and a meta-analysis of the association between neonatal jaundice and autism with particular attention given to low risk of bias studies. Pubmed, Scopus, Embase, Cochrane, and Google Scholar were searched for publications until February 2019. Data was extracted by use of pre-piloted structured sheets. Low risk of bias studies were identified through predefined criteria.
A total of 32 studies met the inclusion criteria. The meta-analysis of six low risk of bias studies showed no association between neonatal jaundice and autism; cohort studies risk ratio 1.09, 95% CI, 0.99–1.20, case-control studies odds ratio 1.29 95% CI 0.95, 1.76. Funnel plot of all studies suggested a high risk of publication bias.
We found a high risk of publication bias, selection bias, and potential confounding in all studies. Based on the low risk of bias studies there was no convincing evidence to support an association between neonatal jaundice and autism.
Meta-analysis of data from six low risk of bias studies indicated no association between neonatal jaundice and autism spectrum disorder.
Previous studies show inconsistent results, which may be explained by unadjusted confounding and selection bias.
Funnel plot suggested high risk of publication bias when including all studies.
There is no evidence to suggest jaundice should be treated more aggressively to prevent autism.
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Kujabi, M.L., Petersen, J.P., Pedersen, M.V. et al. Neonatal jaundice and autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Pediatr Res 90, 934–949 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41390-020-01272-x