A prospective study of risk factors for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in all very low birthweight (less than 1500 g) infants born in New Zealand in 1986 is reported. Of 413 liveborn infants admitted to neonatal units, 338 (81.2%) survived to be discharged home. Of surviving infants, 313 (93%) were examined by indirect ophthalmoscopy, as were eight infants who died before discharge. Sixty-nine infants (21.5% of 321) had acute retinopathy. On multiple logistic regression analysis, three variables made statistically significant independent contributions to the risk of any acute retinopathy; gestational age (P less than 0.0001), principal hospital caring for the infant (P less than 0.01) and treatment with indomethacin (P less than 0.01). Only two variables, gestational age (P less than 0.0001) and hospital (P less than 0.01), made significant contributions to the risk of stage 2 or more ROP. For both categories of ROP, timing of the examination also had a statistically significant effect (P less than 0.001). After adjustment for other significant predictor variables, it was estimated that approximately 70% of infants of less than 26 weeks' gestation were at risk of ROP and nearly 50% of stage 2 or more ROP, in comparison with less than 2% of infants of 32 weeks' gestation or more; infants treated with indomethacin were over 1.5 times more likely to have ROP than infants not so treated. Failure to enforce uniform timing of examination was the most serious defect in the study; only 205 (64%) of the 321 infants were examined at the recommended time. However, reanalysis of the model with information limited to these 205 infants yielded similar risk factors. The incidence of ROP, both observed (P less than 0.05) and adjusted for other significant variables in the regression model (P less than 0.01) was lowest in the two largest level III hospitals. These hospitals also had the best survival rates after adjustment for birthweight, gestation and gender (P less than 0.01). We speculate that the larger level III units obtained better results because their size and experience enabled them to provide a better overall quality of care.