Retinopathy of prematurity can cause a range of eye problems, including vision loss, eye abnormalities, and even blindness. Sadly, sometimes the effects of retinopathy of prematurity are permanent. The National Eye Institute (NEI) reports that some 400 to 600 babies become legally blind from retinopathy of prematurity every year in the U.S.
With appropriate medical treatment, an infant with retinopathy of prematurity may be able to avoid permanent damage to their eyes.
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Medical Negligence May Be Involved in a Retinopathy of Prematurity Case
In some cases, retinopathy of prematurity may be caused or worsened by medical negligence. If your infant has retinopathy of prematurity because of a medical error or a doctor’s negligence, you may be able to bring a medical malpractice claim against the liable party.
In a successful medical malpractice claim, you may be entitled to compensation for your child’s past and future medical expense. You may also be compensated for your lost income. Non-economic damages, including the child’s pain and suffering, may also be recoverable.
Note that every state has a law, known as a statute of limitations, that limits the amount of time victims have to file a medical malpractice lawsuit. However, many states also have laws that extend the deadline to file a medical malpractice lawsuit in birth injury cases due to the victim’s young age.
A lawyer familiar with the medical malpractice laws in your area can give you information on how long your family has to file a lawsuit for your child’s birth injuries.
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Progression of Retinopathy of Prematurity
There are five progressively severe stages of retinopathy of prematurity:
Stage 1 Retinopathy of Prematurity
In stage 1, the blood vessels of the eye grow in an atypical manner, but the abnormal growth is mild. Infants with stage 1 retinopathy of prematurity may not require any medical treatment, and the problem may resolve on its own.
Stage 2 Retinopathy of Prematurity
Stage 2 retinopathy of prematurity involves a moderate amount of unusual blood vessel growth in the eyes. Some infants with stage 2 retinopathy of prematurity improve and grow up to have normal vision with no medical intervention.
Stage 3 Retinopathy of Prematurity
Stage 3 retinopathy of prematurity involves more severe atypical blood vessel growth in the eyes. The blood vessels develop in areas of the eye that do not normally contain blood vessels. While some sufferers of stage 3 retinopathy of prematurity may improve without treatment, many require medical treatment.
Stage 4 Retinopathy of Prematurity
Stage 4 retinopathy of prematurity is characterized by the partial detachment of the retina. Treatment is typically required at this stage.
Stage 5 Retinopathy of Prematurity
Stage 5 is characterized by the complete detachment of the retina. Infants with stage 4 and stage 5 retinopathy of prematurity risk permanent vision loss and even blindness.
Retinopathy of prematurity can worsen over time, so it is crucial for medical professionals to closely observe the development of premature infants’ eyes. Even infants with stage 1 or 2 retinopathy of prematurity should be monitored by a doctor.
Medical Treatment May Prevent Permanent Damage to Eyes
If a child is born premature and has other risk factors for retinopathy of prematurity, doctors and other medical staff should carefully monitor the infant for signs of this condition.
In the majority of cases, permanent damage to the eyes can be avoided with the appropriate medical intervention. Treatment for retinopathy of prematurity may include:
Cryotherapy and Laser Therapy
Two of the most common treatments for retinopathy of prematurity include cryotherapy and laser therapy. Cryotherapy involves freezing small areas of the infant’s eye to prevent the atypical spread of blood vessels. Laser therapy uses a laser to “burn” the outside edges of the retina and prevent blood vessels from growing abnormally.
If an infant’s retina has become detached, a small device called a scleral buckle might be used. Scleral buckling is a procedure that, when successful, corrects a detached retina and restores vision.
If an infant has significant scarring and abnormal blood vessel growth, a vitrectomy may be performed. During a vitrectomy, an eye surgeon removes a gel-like substance in the eye called “vitreous” and replaces it with a special fluid. This may help prevent retinal detachment and the resulting loss of vision.
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Call Birth Injury Law Group for a Free Consultation
The Birth Injury Lawyers Group helps parents nationwide take legal action after medical negligence caused or contributed to their child’s retinopathy of prematurity and related injuries.
To learn more about how a birth injury claim may allow you to hold a negligent medical professional accountable and recover compensation for your damages, contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group today at (800) 222-9529. Our client intake team will be happy to provide you with information and answer your questions during your free case review.