Evidence for changing guidelines for routine screening for retinopathy of prematurity

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2001 Mar;155(3):387-95. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.155.3.387.


Context: Existing guidelines recommended by the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) for routine screening for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) remain controversial.

Objective: To determine whether current guidelines for routine screening for ROP should be changed.

Design: We examined data that were collected as part of a larger study of 14 neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in Canada. We examined the effect of strategies using different birth weight (BW) and gestational age (GA) criteria for routine ROP screening, and performed a cost-effectiveness analysis.

Setting: The 14 NICUs (except one) are regional tertiary level referral centres serving geographic regions of Canada, and include approximately 60% of all tertiary-level NICU beds in Canada.

Patients: This large cohort included all 16 424 infants admitted to 14 Canadian NICUs from January 8, 1996, to October 31, 1997.

Interventions: None.

Main outcome measure: Treatment for ROP.

Results: The most cost-effective strategy was to routinely screen only infants having a BW of 1200 g or less. This included all infants treated for ROP (except 1 outlier at 32 weeks GA and 1785 g BW), at a marginal cost per additional person with improved vision of $513 081 for screening patients between 28 weeks GA and 1200 g BW, compared with $1 800 039 and $2 075 874 for using the current AAP and CPS guidelines, respectively (cryotherapy outcomes). Results for laser therapy were similar, but costs were slightly lower. This strategy reduced the number of infants screened under the current CPS guidelines by 46%.

Conclusion: Screening only infants having a BW of 1200 g or less is the most cost-effective strategy for routine ROP screening.

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • Canada
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Cryotherapy
  • Gestational Age
  • Guidelines as Topic*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Lasers
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Multicenter Studies as Topic
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / diagnosis*
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / economics
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / therapy
  • Sensitivity and Specificity