Retinopathy of prematurity screening and risk mitigation during the COVID-19 pandemic

J AAPOS. 2021 Apr;25(2):91.e1-91.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jaapos.2020.11.015. Epub 2021 Apr 18.


Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has significantly disrupted the delivery of healthcare. Although most nonurgent ophthalmology visits at Boston Children's Hospital were canceled, premature infants at risk for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) still required timely, in-person care during the initial 3-month period of the infection surge in Massachusetts. The purpose of the current study was to report our protocols for mitigating risk of exposure to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) between infants and eye care providers and to compare examination rates and results with the same 3-month period in 2019.

Methods: During the infection surge, we added new infection control measures and strengthened existing ones. Additional personal protective equipment was used, and the number of ophthalmologists rotating in the three high-capacity NICUs we service was limited.

Results: More infants required ROP examinations during the study period in 2020 than in the same period in 2019, but fewer examinations were performed. There were no cases of missed progression to severe ROP during this time and no known transmission of SARS-CoV-2 between ROP patients and ophthalmology staff.

Conclusions: Overall, effective ROP care was safely provided during the COVID-19 pandemic, and contact with this vulnerable population was minimized.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Massachusetts
  • Pandemics
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity* / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors