A higher incidence of intermittent hypoxemic episodes is associated with severe retinopathy of prematurity

J Pediatr. 2010 Jul;157(1):69-73. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2010.01.046. Epub 2010 Mar 20.


Objective: Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a vasoproliferative disorder of the retina in preterm infants, is associated with multiple factors, including oxygenation level. We explored whether the common intermittent hypoxemic events in preterm infants are associated with the development of ROP.

Study design: Oxygen desaturation events were quantified in 79 preterm infants (gestational age, 24 to 27-6/7 weeks) during the first 8 weeks of life. Infants were classified as requiring laser treatment for ROP versus having less severe or no ROP. A linear mixed model was used to study the association between the incidence of intermittent hypoxia and laser treatment of ROP, controlling for gestational age, sex, race, multiple births, and initial severity of illness.

Results: For all infants, hypoxemic events increased with postnatal age (P<.001). Controlling for all covariates, a higher incidence of oxygen desaturation events was found in the infants undergoing laser therapy for ROP (P<.001), males (P<.02), and infants of younger gestational age (P<.003).

Conclusions: The incidence of hypoxemic events was higher in infants with ROP requiring laser therapy. Therapeutic strategies to optimize oxygenation in preterm infants should include minimization of desaturation episodes, which may in turn decrease serious morbidity in this high-risk population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / complications*
  • Hypoxia / epidemiology
  • Hypoxia / metabolism
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Incidence
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Laser Therapy*
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Oxygen / administration & dosage
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / diagnosis
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / epidemiology*
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / physiopathology
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / surgery
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors


  • Oxygen