The stages of retinopathy of prematurity include increasingly abnormal blood vessel growth in the eyes and, eventually, detached retina.
Retinopathy of prematurity develops in five stages. Each stage is more serious than the next. Stages 1 and 2 do not typically result in long-term or permanent vision loss or other serious medical concerns.
However, Stages 3, 4, and 5 could require medical intervention to heal. Stage 5 is total retinal detachment, which means that the retina has completely pulled away from the back of the eye. If retinopathy of prematurity reaches stage 4 or 5, the infant may suffer from substantial vision impairment or even total blindness.
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Atypical Blood Vessel Growth May Develop into Retinal Detachment
Blood vessels transport oxygenated blood throughout our bodies. There are blood vessels in the eye that bring oxygen to the cells of the eye so that these cells can function properly. Blood vessels play a crucial role in our ability to see, and when blood vessels grow abnormally, this can impede vision.
The following stages of retinopathy of prematurity represent varying degrees of abnormality for blood vessel growth in the eyes:
In stage 1 retinopathy of prematurity, blood vessels begin to grow abnormally. However, the abnormal growth is mild enough that no vision impairment occurs. Many infants with stage 1 retinopathy of prematurity do not require medical treatment. The condition may resolve on its own.
In stage 2 retinopathy of prematurity, blood vessels grow even more abnormally than in stage 1. Infants with stage 2 retinopathy of prematurity may also avoid medical complications and may not require any medical intervention.
An infant with stage 3 retinopathy of prematurity has significant abnormalities in the amount and location of blood vessels. The blood vessels may grow closer to the center of the eye instead of on the surface of the retina. Some infants with stage 3 retinopathy of prematurity do not require treatment and may not have any vision or eye alignment problems. However, if the blood vessels become twisted or enlarged, they may require treatment to prevent worsening of the condition.
Stage 4 retinopathy of prematurity is characterized by a partially detached retina. Advanced treatments, such as surgery, may be required at this stage.
Stage 5 retinopathy of prematurity involves a fully detached retina. If an infant develops a detached retina, they will need immediate medical treatment. If left untreated, retinal detachment can cause profound visual impairment or blindness.
Retinopathy of prematurity may progress quickly, so getting proper medical treatment for this condition as soon as possible is crucial.
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Treatment Options for Retinopathy of Prematurity
While mild cases of retinopathy of prematurity may heal on their own, advanced cases may require one of several different treatments, such as:
- Laser photocoagulation: this treatment is intended to stop the abnormal growth of blood vessels. A laser is aimed at the retina and creates a tiny burn. This stops the abnormal growth in most cases.
- Cryoretinopexy: during this treatment, a cryoprobe is used to freeze the abnormal blood vessels and prevent the growth of additional blood vessels.
- Scleral buckling: this procedure is used to address partial retinal detachment. Tension on the retina may be relieved by pushing the wall of the eye inward. This may be accomplished by placing a device around the eyeball until the retina reattaches.
Unfortunately, some cases of retinopathy of prematurity result in permanent blindness. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), retinopathy of prematurity causes 400 to 600 babies to become legally blind in the U.S. each year.
Contact the Birth Injury Lawyers Group
If your child’s retinopathy of prematurity was caused by medical negligence, you might have a valid medical malpractice claim. You could be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and any permanent disability your child experiences from this condition.
No matter what stage of retinopathy of prematurity your child is diagnosed with, call the Birth Injury Lawyers Group at (800) 222-9529 for a free case evaluation. A member of our team can answer your questions and give you more information about our services.