Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an eye disorder in premature infants caused by the growth of abnormal blood vessels, which can lead to scarring and bleeding in the light sensitive part of the eye (retina). The earlier babies are born and the lower their birth weights, the greater the risks of developing ROP.
While most premature infants develop a mild form of ROP, it is the most severe cases that, when left untreated, can lead to permanent damage to an infant’s vision, sometimes resulting in total blindness. Frequent eye exams are needed to follow the course of the disease and initiate timely treatment.
The Retinopathy of Prematurity Program at Rady Children’s Hospital is a well-coordinated team of physicians and nurses that care for infants who are at risk for ROP in the neonatal intensive care unit. A board-certified neonatologist will identify infants with a birth weight less than 1,500 grams, or a gestational age less than 30 weeks, as well as selected high-risk infants with a birth weight between 1,500 and 2,000 grams, and refer for ROP screening.
Dr. Preeti Bansal, division chief of Ophthalmology, performs the screening exams in the NICU. In collaboration with Dr. Eric Nudleman, a retinal specialist at the Shiley Eye Institute at UC San Diego, treatment is provided to those infants demonstrating the more advanced stages of the disease. Treatment options include laser therapy and ocular injections. Laser therapy is used to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels by burning a small area at the edge of the retina. Ocular injections with bevacizumab, a drug that works by preventing further growth of abnormal blood vessels, is reserved for the most severe stages of the disease. Following treatment, serial eye exams are needed to monitor the response and regression of the disease. Following discharge from the NICU, Dr. Bansal and her team of ophthalmologists will continue to follow patients in their outpatient clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital to ensure the best possible outcomes for their patients.
Preeti Bansal, M.D., Ophthalmologist
Eric Nudleman, M.D., Ph.D., Retinal Specialist