Retinopathy of prematurity

Surv Ophthalmol. Jul-Aug 1988;33(1):1-16. doi: 10.1016/0039-6257(88)90068-9.


Over the last decade major advances have been made in the understanding of the pathogenesis and evolution of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). The increased survival of very small premature infants in modern neonatal intensive care units has led to the resurgence of this potentially blinding disease. ROP appears to be a multifactorial disease, the prevention of which is probably impossible even now, with the most accurate methods of blood gas monitoring and oxygen restriction. In addition to oxygen, there are a number of significant risk factors, such as birth weight and gestational age, ventilator hours, hyper and hypocarbia, hypoxia and acidosis, xanthine therapy and probably bright light. Current data suggest that the level of antioxidants in the immature retina is relatively low and therefore oxygen radicals which accumulate in the preterm baby's retina may play an important role in the pathogenesis of ROP. The treatment of the disease in both its "active" and "cicatricial" stages emphasizes the need for a new classification which could serve as a common international language through which results may be compared. Vitamin E was suggested in some studies to be helpful in preventing the severe stages of the disease, but its efficacy has yet to be proved. Treatment modalities such as photocoagulation, cryotherapy and vitrectomy are being tried as a means of therapy in the more advanced stages of the disease. Preliminary results of a large multicenter study support the efficacy of cryotherapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity* / classification
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity* / etiology
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity* / therapy