Objective: To determine the effects of surfactant on retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
Design: We compared infants for 3 1/2 years both before and after the introduction of surfactant in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) using prospectively collected data. Exogenous surfactant (Exosurf) was introduced into our NICU on July 1, 1991.
Methods: We compared the incidence and severity of ROP in two groups of infants born at less than 29 weeks' gestation who required cryo- or laser therapy. Premature infants born during the first 3 1/2 years following the introduction of surfactant were compared with those born during the 3 1/2-year period prior to its introduction. The infants were examined by one ophthalmologist (J.K.) and classified according to the International Classification of ROP.
Results: A total of 124 infants born presurfactant and 152 infants born postsurfactant were examined for the presence of ROP. No significant difference between the two groups regarding any stage of ROP or the necessity for treatment was found. In infants of less than 27 weeks' gestation, a significant reduction in the number requiring cryo- or laser therapy was noted (12 of 48 examined [25.0%] vs 6 of 62 examined [9.7%], respectively; P < 0.05). This decreased need for treatment, however, was found in infants without hyaline membrane disease who did not receive surfactant.
Conclusion: Exosurf has had no significant impact on the incidence or severity of ROP. Due to its effect on improved survival rates, the surfactant produces a larger proportion of infants at risk of developing ROP. Other changes in NICU protocol may be causing a reduction in the incidence of severe ROP.