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Strategy to help doctors determine when to treat retinopathy of prematurity
Date:4/29/2010

premature infants born each year in the United States are affected by some degree of ROP. At-risk infants generally are born before 31 weeks of the mother's pregnancy and weigh 2.75 pounds or less.

This disease, which usually develops in both eyes, is one of the most common causes of vision loss in children. About 90 percent of infants with ROP have a mild form that does not require treatment, but those who have a more severe form can develop lifelong visual impairment, and possibly blindness.

During pregnancy, the blood vessels of the eye gradually grow to supply oxygen and essential nutrients to the light-sensitive retina. If a baby is born prematurely, growth of the blood vessels may stop before they reach the edge of the retina. In these newborns, abnormal, fragile blood vessels and retinal tissue may develop at the edges of the normal tissue. The abnormal vessels can bleed, resulting in scars that pull on the retina. The main cause of visual impairment and blindness in ROP is retinal detachment. Laser therapy or cryotherapy, using freezing temperatures, are the most effective treatments to slow or stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

Previously, doctors treated infants with ROP when they estimated their risk for retinal detachment to be 50 percent, a strategy developed through the NEI-supported Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity study. Although this was a major finding, many infants still went on to develop severe eye disease. Therefore, the first phase of the ETROP study aimed to discover if doctors could identify infants at a higher risk for progression of the disease and intervene early to improve their vision.

In 2003, the ETROP study found that early treatment -- upon diagnosis as higher risk for severe ROP -- improved the vision and retinal health of certain infants after nine months. These infants had dilated or twisted blood vessels in the retina and substantial growth of new blood vessels, classified
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Contact: Belinda Mager
bem9048@nyp.org
212-305-5587
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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