Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a potentially blinding eye disease that occurs when the blood vessels within the retina have insufficient time to develop due to premature birth. The amount of retina that is undeveloped influences the degree of vision loss. In severe cases of ROP, the retina may pull away from the wall of the eye (retinal detachment), resulting in complete blindness.
ORBIS International, a non-profit humanitarian organization, teaches diagnostic and surgical techniques for retinopathy of prematurity in developing countries.
Hue was successfully treated for ROP
by ORBIS-trained physicians in
ROP was unknown prior to 1942, an era in which premature infants were unlikely to survive long enough to show the effects of ROP. If the infants did survive, doctors didn’t understand the mechanism behind their blindness in order to treat them.
While improvements in medical care enable many of the smallest of premature infants to survive, the rate and severity of ROP have unfortunately increased. Although the majority of premature babies will show some degree of ROP, most will not require special treatment. Nevertheless, premature babies have an increased risk of associated eye disease, including strabismus (misalignment of the eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye), as well as the need for eyeglasses, usually to correct nearsightedness.
How common is retinopathy of prematurity?
More than 80 percent of premature babies who weigh less than 2.2 lbs. (1 kg) will develop retinopathy of prematurity. Improved treatment, including laser to the undeveloped retinal area, has reduced the devastating effects of ROP on the eye, yet worldwide it remains a leading cause of pediatric retinal blindness.
Prevention of retinopathy of prematurity
Prenatal care can reduce the risk of premature birth. Careful management of premature babies in the nursery and early screening with timely treatment when indicated can prevent blindness or reduce vision loss in milder cases of ROP.
Treatment of retinopathy of prematurity
Retinopathy of prematurity is most effectively treated with laser surgery to burn the immature areas of the retina, where abnormal blood vessels tend to grow. If the retina detaches, surgery may be performed to re-secure it.
What ORBIS is doing about retinopathy of prematurity in developing countries
ORBIS is training pediatric ophthalmologists in appropriate and sustainable screening and treatment techniques to prevent blindness in babies with ROP. In addition, ORBIS is working on a simulation program that will help teach pediatric ophthalmology specialists in developing countries the surgical skills necessary to treat ROP babies.
Lima, Peru, ORBIS partners with Instituto Damos Vision (IDV), a non-governmental provider of high-quality eye care services to the poor that has specialized expertise in ROP management. IDV is providing comprehensive training in ROP screening and management for all neonatal intensive care unit staff in
Lima. The workshops include training in oxygen management so that premature babies placed in incubators can avoid ROP-related blindness. ORBIS is supporting the acquisition of two "blenders" per NICU upon completion of their workshop. The blenders allow NICU staff to properly mix oxygen levels.
ORBIS is also supporting IDV's training of hospital staff to better counsel mothers of at-risk infants to ensure compliance with ROP follow-up.
For more information on retinopathy of prematurity, see: