Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye disease that can happen in premature babies. It causes abnormal blood vessels to grow in the retina, and can lead to blindness.
Retinopathy of prematurity makes blood vessels grow abnormally and randomly in the eye. These vessels tend to leak or bleed, leading to scarring of the retina, the layer of nerve tissue in the eye that lets us see.
When the scars shrink, they pull on the retina, detaching it from the back of the eye. Because the retina is a vital part of vision, its detachment will cause blindness.
During pregnancy, blood vessels grow from the center of a developing baby's retina 16 weeks into the mother's pregnancy, and then branch outward and reach the edges of the retina between 8 months into the pregnancy and when the baby is full term. In babies born early, normal retinal vessel growth may be disrupted and abnormal vessels can develop. This can cause leaking and bleeding into the eye. ROP has no signs or symptoms when it first develops in a newborn. The only way to detect it is through an eye exam by an ophthalmologist .
Some cases of ROP are mild and correct themselves. But others progress to scarring, pulling the retina away from the rest of the eye. These cases need surgery to prevent vision loss or blindness.
ROP surgery stops the growth of abnormal blood vessels. Treatment focuses on the peripheral retina (the sides of the retina) to preserve the central retina (the most important part of the retina). ROP surgery involves scarring areas on the peripheral retina to stop the abnormal growth and eliminate pulling on the retina.
Because surgery focuses on the peripheral retina, some amount of peripheral vision may be lost. However, by preserving the central retina, the eye can still do vital functions like seeing straight ahead, distinguishing colors, reading, etc.
Types of Retinopathy of Prematurity Surgery
The most common methods of ROP surgery are:
ROP surgery is usually done with a child under either general anesthesia ( deep sleep-like state) or sedation (the child is unaware of the procedure, but isn't as deeply sedated as with general anesthesia).
The eye will be covered with a patch after scleral buckling and vitrectomy, but not after laser surgery or an injection. Whether a hospital stay is needed depends on the child's medical condition and age at the time of surgery.
Follow-up eye exams are usually required every 1–2 weeks. For scleral buckling, the ophthalmologist must examine the buckle every 6 months to account for a child's growing eye.
The goal of ROP surgery is to stop the progression of the disease and prevent blindness. ROP surgery has a good success rate, but not all babies respond to treatment. Sizeable number of babies who have ROP surgery might still lose some or all vision.
With all types of ROP surgery, a degree of peripheral (side) vision may be lost. And even if the ROP stops progressing, vision still can be affected. Because some vision loss and complications can happen, any child who has had ROP surgery should have regular, yearly eye exams well into adulthood.
Years of Service
Surgeries & Procedures