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Babies who have severe Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) are at risk of retinal detachment leading to blindness. Babies with regressed but severe ROP may develop visual problems such as squint, myopia and astigmatism later in childhood.
The premature baby's retina and the retinal blood vessels have not completed their growth when the baby is born. When exposed to changes in oxygen level after birth, the retinal blood vessels may be stimulated to grow abnormally. This can lead to bleeding in the retina layer of the eye and retinal detachment if not treated.
ROP is one of the conditions affecting babies with very low birth weight (VLBW).All babies born before 32 weeks of life will undergo screening by the eye specialists.Some more mature premature babies may also be required to undergo the screening if their postnatal course is unstable.
The eye checks are performed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) before baby's discharge from hospital. Before the eye checks, the babies will be given eye drops to dilate the pupils and provide local pain relief. These checks will be conducted periodically during the baby's stay in NICU. If there is evidence of severe ROP, the babies will undergo laser therapy to prevent retinal detachment.Following discharge from NICU, an appointment to see the eye specialist at the clinic will be given.
In our VLBW cohort (2015-2019), our rate of severe ROP is 7.1%, comparable to the Vermont Oxford Network rate of 7.3% in 2015.Information is correct as of December 2019.
Premature babies are referred to the ophthalmologists (eye specialists) specialising in paediatrics to perform ROP screening at designated times.