Background: The number of preterm births in Germany has been increasing continuously over the past decades. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a major complication of preterm birth and one of the leading causes of blindness in children.
Objectives: This study analyzes the development of the incidence of ROP over the past 5 years at two German university hospitals, utilizing data from ROP screening examinations.
Material and methods: We assessed all children born in the years 2012-2016 who were included in the ROP screening program at two German university hospitals according to the criteria of the German ROP screening guidelines. Parameters such as gestational age, birth weight, ROP stage and zone, and need for therapeutic intervention were assessed.
Results: We analyzed the data of 863 children who had undergone a total of 4117 screening examinations. The number of children included in the screening program per study year increased continuously over the study period by a total of 43.1% (137 in 2012, 196 in 2016). Likewise, the number of screening examinations per year increased by 58.4% (608 in 2012, 963 in 2016). Overall, 27.5% of screened infants were diagnosed with ROP of any stage and 2.5% required treatment for ROP. The number of children diagnosed with ROP of any stage per year increased by 100.0% (32 in 2012, 64 in 2016). Mean gestational age (29.0 ± 3.0 weeks) and mean birth weight (1192 ± 513 g) remained stable over the study period.
Conclusion: Screening data for ROP from two German university hospitals demonstrates a significant increase in both the number of screened infants and the number of infants affected by ROP over the past 5 years.
Keywords: Epidemiology; Gestational age; Preterm birth; Retinopathy of prematurity; Screening.