Background: Hospital-nursery lighting has been suggested as a factor in causing retinopathy of prematurity. Despite ongoing debate, a causal relation has not been established.
Methods: We conducted a prospective, randomized, multicenter study of the effects of light reduction on 409 premature infants with birth weights of less than 1251 g and gestational ages of less than 31 weeks. Two hundred five infants were exposed to reduced light, and 204 to typical nursery lighting. The amount of light reaching the infants' eyes was reduced within 24 hours after birth by placing goggles on the infants that reduced visible-light exposure by 97 percent and ultraviolet-light exposure by 100 percent. The babies wore the goggles until 31 weeks' postconceptional age or 4 weeks after birth, whichever was longer. Once the goggles were removed, ophthalmologists masked to the treatment assignments assessed the infants for retinopathy of prematurity at least biweekly for up to 13 weeks.
Results: There were 188 infants in the group that wore goggles and 173 in the control group who survived and were available for follow-up. The mean birth weights were 906 g in the goggles group and 914 g in the control group; the mean gestational ages were 27.4 weeks and 27.2 weeks, respectively. The mean ambient-light level adjacent to the infants' faces was 399 lux for the goggles group and 447 lux for the control group. Retinopathy of prematurity was diagnosed in 102 infants (54 percent) in the goggles group and 100 (58 percent) in the control group (relative risk, 0.9; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.8 to 1.1; P=0.50).
Conclusions: A reduction in ambient-light exposure does not alter the incidence of retinopathy of prematurity.