Objective: To determine whether earlier treatment using ablation of the avascular retina in high-risk prethreshold retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) results in improved grating visual acuity and retinal structural outcomes compared with conventional treatment.
Methods: Infants with bilateral high-risk prethreshold ROP (n = 317) had one eye randomized to early treatment with the fellow eye managed conventionally (control eye). In asymmetric cases (n = 84), the eye with high-risk prethreshold ROP was randomized to early treatment or conventional management. High risk was determined using a model based on the Multicenter Trial of Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity natural history cohort. At a corrected age of 9 months, visual acuity was assessed by masked testers using the Teller acuity card procedure. At corrected ages of 6 and 9 months, eyes were examined for structural outcome. Outcomes for the 2 treatment groups of eyes were compared using chi2 analysis, combining data for bilateral and asymmetric cases.
Results: Grating acuity results showed a reduction in unfavorable visual acuity outcomes with earlier treatment, from 19.5% to 14.5% (P =.01). Unfavorable structural outcomes were reduced from 15.6% to 9.1% (P<.001) at 9 months. Further analysis supported retinal ablative therapy for eyes with type 1 ROP, defined as zone I, any stage ROP with plus disease (a degree of dilation and tortuosity of the posterior retinal blood vessels meeting or exceeding that of a standard photograph); zone I, stage 3 ROP without plus disease; or zone II, stage 2 or 3 ROP with plus disease. The analysis supported a wait-and-watch approach to type 2 ROP, defined as zone I, stage 1 or 2 ROP without plus disease or zone II, stage 3 ROP without plus disease. These eyes should be considered for treatment only if they progress to type 1 or threshold ROP.
Conclusions: Early treatment of high-risk prethreshold ROP significantly reduced unfavorable outcomes to a clinically important degree. Additional analyses led to modified recommendations for the use of peripheral retinal ablation in eyes with ROP. Long-term follow-up is being conducted to learn whether the benefits noted in the first year after birth will persist into childhood.