Effect of bright light in the hospital nursery on the incidence of retinopathy of prematurity

N Engl J Med. 1985 Aug 15;313(7):401-4. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198508153130701.


The preterm infant is subjected to prolonged exposure to ambient nursery illumination at levels that have been found to produce retinal damage in animals. We prospectively investigated the effect of exposure to light in two intensive care nurseries by comparing the incidence of retinopathy of prematurity among 74 infants from the standard bright nursery environment (median light level, 60 foot-candles [ftc]) with the incidence among 154 infants of similar birth weight for whom the light levels were reduced (median, 25 ftc). There was a higher incidence of retinopathy of prematurity in the group of infants who had been exposed to the brighter nursery lights, particularly in those with birth weights below 1000 g (86 percent vs. 54 per cent, P less than 0.01 by chi-square test). We conclude that the high level of ambient illumination commonly found in the hospital nursery may be one factor contributing to retinopathy of prematurity and that safety standards with regard to current lighting practices should be reassessed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Birth Weight
  • District of Columbia
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Hospital Bed Capacity, 100 to 299
  • Hospital Bed Capacity, 300 to 499
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal* / standards
  • Lighting / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Nurseries, Hospital* / standards
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / epidemiology
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity / etiology*