Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)

What is Retionpathy of Prematurity?

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), affects approximately 14,000 to 16,000 premature infants in the United States annually.

ROP primarily affects infant weighing less than two pounds twelve ounces, who are born at or before thirty-one weeks into the pregnancy. The lower the birth weight of the baby, the higher the chances are that he or she will suffer from retinopathy of prematurity.

Approximately ninety percent of infants born with ROP suffer from the milder version which improves in time and normally requires no treatment. ROP causes about four hundred to six hundred infants each year in the United States to become diagnosed as legally blind.

What causes retinopathy of prematurity?

At approximately sixteen weeks of pregnancy, the baby's eyes begin to develop. Blood vessels grow from the back of the eye toward the retina, and bring oxygen and nourishment to the eye. The process remains gradual until approximately the last twelve weeks of pregnancy, when everything develops more rapidly.In a full term pregnancy, development of the eye is nearly complete. When a baby is born prematurely, however, many times the blood vessels have not have sufficient time to reach the retina. If this happens, and the blood vessels stop growing, the edges of the retina do not receive adequate oxygen. New, more fragile blood vessels often begin to grow in that area to make up for the deficiency. Since they are more fragile, these blood vessels frequently leak, which causes scarring in the eye. As the scars heal, they actually pull the retina, causing it to detach, resulting in visual impairment.

How is retinopathy of prematurity treated?

There are numerous treatments for ROP, but the most common treatments are laser surgery and cryotherapy. Laser surgery is an invasive surgery that is performed by using a special instrument that actually targets the periphery of the eye where there are no normal blood vessels, burning it away. With this procedure, the peripheral area is destroyed.

Cryotherapy works in much the same manner as laser therapy, except that the tool used actually generates freezing temperatures, and freezes the surface that overlies the peripheral area. Again, with cryotherapy, the peripheral area of the eye is destroyed. Both of these treatments are performed on children suffering from the more severe stages of ROP.

Other forms of treatment include the use of a sclera buckle, and the performance of e vitrectomy. The sclera buckle procedure involves the placement of a silicone band around the eye, which prevents the scar tissue from being pulled, and allows the retina to relax.The band is required to be removed later, as the eye continues to grow. A vitrectomy removes the vitreous and replaces it with a saline solution which enables the scar tissues to be removed. The procedure also enables the retina ti relax.

While these treatments have been very successful in preventing blindness and improving the vision of babies with retinopathy of prematurity, not all babies respond to treatment. In some cases, the babies will suffer from retinal detachment. A careful evaluation performed by your child's physician can determine whether further treatments are recommended.

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