Retinopathy of Prematurity

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(ROP) retinopathy of prematurity is abnormal blood vessel development in the retina of the eye in a premature infant.

If an infant is born very prematurely, eye development can be disrupted. The vessels may stop growing or grow abnormally from the retina into the normally clear gel that fills the back of the eye. The vessels are fragile and can leak, causing bleeding in the eye.

Scar tissue may develop and pull the retina loose from the inner surface of the eye. In severe cases, this can result in vision loss.

ROP had been relatively rare because of the advancements in neonatal care. However, because more premature babies that would not normally have survived are able to be saved, the risk of ROP is on the rise. The threat and likelihood of ROP depends on how premature the infant is — the more premature and the more sickly, the more likely they are to develop ROP. Today in most hospitals premature infants are screened for ROP as a preventative measure.

Treatment

The ophthalmologist’s role is to detect and offer treatment for those affected. Unfortunately many qualified physicians have dropped this service from their practice due to the economic and liability issues involved. Our physicians are some of the few to offer this type of screening and care in the metro Atlanta area.

Treatment typically involves either laser therapy, cryotherapy, or some anti-vascular endothelial growth factor injections.