Early treatment of blinding eye disease in infants can prevent severe vision loss

Researchers at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and 25 other centers, have concluded that earlier treatment of premature infants affected with severe retinopathy of prematurity can result in better outcomes and a reduced risk of blindness or vision impairment for these infants. This also helped to define high-risk groups among premature infants with the disease most likely to benefit from the treatment.

These findings may also lead to better screening protocols of premature infants' eyes while they are under observation in hospital's newborn intensive care units. The results of the multicenter Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ETROP) study are published in the December issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

A leading cause of vision loss in infants, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a potentially blinding disease that affects premature, low birth weight infants. ROP is the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the back of the eye. These vessels can leak fluid and blood and lead to scar tissue inside the eye, increasing the risk of retinal detachment and severe vision loss.

Each year ROP affects an estimated 14,000 to 16,000 premature, low birth weight infants in the United States and thousands more worldwide. Of these cases, approximately 1,500 infants will develop severe ROP that requires treatment. Despite available treatment, about 400 to 600 infants with ROP still become legally blind each year.

"This study represents another important step in our ongoing efforts to decrease preventable blindness in premature babies, said Graham Quinn, M.D., MSCE, principal investigator at the Philadelphia Center (The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Hospital). "We have identified a group of children whose eyes would not have been treated before using the conventional threshold definition, but many of these eyes clearly benefited from earlier treatme

Contact: Joey Marie McCool
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

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