Objective: To determine if practices related to the use of pulse oximetry in the first 2 weeks following birth and after 2 weeks of age have a relationship to the rate of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) and retinal ablation surgery in infants < or =1500 g.
Study design: A questionnaire was mailed in July 2001 to 318 neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in the United States and information was collected regarding SpO2 guidelines and the rate of both severe ROP and retinal ablation surgery.
Results: A total of 142 surveys were returned (45%). In all, 87% of the NICUs had SpO2 guidelines, and 60% of these centers maintained a different range of SpO2 for infants < or = or >2 weeks of age. The range of SpO2 was 82 to 100% with an average minimum (min) and maximum (max) of 89 and 95%, respectively. In the NICUs with an SpO2 max of >98% in the first 2 weeks following birth, the rate of retinal ablation surgery was 5.5 vs 3% in those units with a max SpO2 >98% (p<0.05). After 2 weeks of age, the rate of retinal ablation surgery was 3.3% when max SpO2 was >92 vs 1.3% when the max SpO2 was < or =92% (p<0.00001). The rate of > or =stage 3 ROP after 2 weeks of age was 5.5% when max SpO2 was >92 vs 2.4% when max SpO2 was < or =92% (p<0.0005).
Conclusion: NICUs in the US today have a wide range of SpO2 guidelines. The results of this survey show a "gradient of risk" towards less retinal ablation surgery when the max SpO2 is <98% in the first 2 weeks following birth (p<0.05). There was a statistically significant lower rate of > or =stage 3 ROP and retinal ablation surgery when the max SpO2 was < or =92% after the first 2 weeks of age. A randomized, controlled trial is needed to establish a safe upper limit of SpO2 in the premature infant at risk for developing ROP.