Premature Infants in Atlanta Rely on Specially Trained Ophthalmologist to Detect, Correct Potentially Blinding Disorder
Georgia Retina Physician Dr. Mark J. Rivellese Screens At-risk Infants for Possible Vision Problems Related to Prematurity
December 21, 2010— With today’s advances in neonatal care, smaller and more premature infants are being saved. With that good news comes an increased risk of a potentially blinding vision disorder called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
When an infant is deemed to be at risk for this condition, most hospitals call a board-certified ophthalmologist with special training in ROP.
In Atlanta, Dr. Mark J. Rivellese often gets the call. As one of the few specialists in the city available to screen infants for this disorder, Dr. Rivellese is the doctor responsible for screening all eligible infants at many metro area hospitals.
“My role is to detect and treat infants in need,” Dr. Rivellese said. “I have become extremely busy and been asked by many hospitals in the Atlanta area to provide this service because many qualified physicians have dropped this service from their practice due to the economic and liability issues involved.”
ROP primarily affects premature infants weighing about 2¾ pounds (1,250 grams) or less that are born before 31 weeks of gestation. The smaller a baby is at birth, the more likely that baby is to develop ROP. This disorder—which usually develops in both eyes—occurs when the blood vessels in the retina do not grow normally. It is one of the most common causes of visual loss in childhood and can lead to lifelong vision impairment and blindness. According to the National Eye Institute, approximately 28,000 babies born every year weigh less than 2¾ pounds, and of those, 14,000-16,000 are affected by some degree of ROP.
If the blood vessels in the child’s eyes do not develop appropriately, Dr. Rivellese will begin treatment in hopes of preventing permanent vision loss. Laser surgery usually causes regression of the problem with the vessels. More complex surgical treatment is needed in a small percentage of premature infants.
Dr. Rivellese lives in Decatur. He is board certified in ophthalmology. He received his undergraduate and medical education at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. After completing a general surgery internship and a residency in ophthalmology at Rush Presbyterian—St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois, he studied medical retina and vitreo-retinal surgery at the New England Eye Center at Tufts University in Boston.
Dr. Rivellese has participated in multiple clinical trials for the investigation of macular degeneration, retinal vascular disease, and retinopathy of prematurity. His particular areas of interest include the medical and surgical treatment of diabetic retinopathy, the diagnosis and treatment of ocular tumors, and retinopathy of prematurity.
Georgia Retina is an Atlanta-based private practice physician group that was founded in 1994 by the merging of two retina-only medical practices, and since has become the largest retina-only medical practice in the southeastern United States.
Georgia Retina focuses their care specifically on conditions of the retina, macula, and vitreous, making them experts in addressing retina disorders. The retina specialists have the training and experience to provide their patients with state-of-the-art treatment.
At Georgia Retina, patients’ vision needs are the top priority. As one of the largest retina-only medical practices in the southeastern United States, Georgia Retina specializes in treating diseases of the retina, macula, and vitreous. Its nine board-certified ophthalmologists have received special Fellowship training in vitreo-retinal diseases and surgery, and are engaged in clinical trials with the goal of advancing research into retinal diseases, their causes, and their cures.
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