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Children born prematurely face up to a 19 times greater risk of retinal detachment later in life
Date:11/7/2013

SAN FRANCISCO Nov. 7, 2013 Children born extremely prematurely have up to a 19 times greater risk of retinal detachment later in life than peers born at term, according to a Swedish study published this month in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. In the first large population-based, long-term investigation of the association between preterm birth and later retinal detachment, the research determined that birth before 32 weeks is associated with increased risks of retinal detachment in childhood, adolescence and young adult life. The study's findings indicate the need for ophthalmologic follow-up in children and adults born extremely and very prematurely. The United States has the sixth largest number of premature births, with more than 500,000 premature babies born each year.

The researchers used Swedish nationwide population registries of more than three million births from 1973 to 2008 to identify subjects born prematurely (at less than 37 weeks of gestation), who were then separated into two groups: those born between 1973 and 1986, at which point a national retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) screening program was established, and those born between 1987 and 2008. ROP is a condition that causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina (back of the eye) and can cause retinal detachment, which is a major cause of childhood blindness globally. A detached retina may lead to vision loss and even blindness unless it is treated with surgery. Although the connection between retinal detachment and preterm births has been noted in smaller studies, this is the first study to analyze a population of this size.

For those born extremely prematurely (less than 28 weeks of gestation) between 1973 and 1986, the researchers found the risk of retinal detachment was 19 times higher than peers born at term. Those born extremely prematurely between 1987 and 2008 had a nine-fold increase in risk after adjustment for
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American Academy of Ophthalmology
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