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What is Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)?

Retinopathy of Prematurity: A Cause of Infant Blindness

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)—sometimes called retrolental fibroplasia—is one of the most prevalent causes of childhood vision loss. It affects premature infants and, without proper treatment, it can lead to blindness or severe, permanent sight problems.

Retinopathy refers to improper development of the blood vessels at the back of the eye. These blood vessels are essential to the nourishment and proper function of the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye. For proper vision, the retina must be intact and able to send information to the brain via the optic nerve. Retinal detachment is a common cause of blindness—and the ultimate outcome in the most severe, untreated cases of ROP.

Premature, Low-Weight Babies Are the Victims of ROP

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is so named because it is a disease unique to premature babies—most commonly, those born before about 32 weeks gestation and weighing less than three pounds. It occurs when the blood vessels grow toward the center of the eye rather than lining the retinal bed, as they do in normal eye development. If not properly diagnosed and treated, ROP can lead to retinal scarring, retinal detachment and blindness.

Our attorneys have learned that a properly trained, diligent specialist will know the five stages of ROP, which have a direct bearing on whether treatment is necessary. The difference in outcome often depends primarily on:

  • Identification of ROP risk by a pediatrician or neonatologist
  • Proper, frequent monitoring of the premature baby by an ophthalmologist with ROP training

According to the Web site of the National Eye Institute (NEI), one of our federal government's National Institutes of Health, of about 14,000-16,000 infants affected by ROP each year, several hundred are rendered legally blind. This does not have to be the result, especially given today's availability of effective ROP treatments including laser therapy.

Contact an Attorney with the Knowledge To Assess Your Case

We are caring lawyers with proven success in cases involving medical malpractice and ROP.

If your baby or the infant of someone you know has suffered severe vision loss or blindness due to ROP, questions about the baby's medical care are justified. We encourage you to contact us for a free no-risk consultation to examine whether medical malpractice or negligence may have been a factor.

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