How retinopathy of prematurity is treated depends on the severity of the baby’s condition and their individual needs. In most cases, no treatment is necessary. The condition does not progress and generally resolves on its own.
Only babies with more advanced stages of the condition, usually Stage III and above, require intervention.
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Determining if Treatment Is Necessary
According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), roughly half of all babies born weighing less than 2.75 pounds develop retinopathy of prematurity. This includes between 14,000 and 16,000 new diagnoses each year. Of these babies, 90 percent have Stage I or Stage II retinopathy of prematurity.
These are the two mildest stages of the condition. The doctor will diagnose mild or moderate abnormal blood vessel growth in the eye and generally will recommend observation as the best plan. In most Stage I and II cases, the problem resolves on its own, and the child develops normal vision.
In children whose blood vessel growth is severely abnormal or continues to advance—or if it has already caused the retina to begin to detach—treatment may be necessary.
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Surgery to Treat Retinopathy of Prematurity
When it requires treatment, retinopathy of prematurity is treated through surgery on the eyes. There are two options for how doctors approach these procedures, although they are very similar in that they both remove the peripheral area of the retina to stop the abnormal growth of the blood vessels there.
According to results of a clinical study outlined in Archives of Ophthalmology, the sooner a child undergoes treatment for advanced retinopathy of prematurity, the better.
Laser therapy uses a laser to remove the abnormal blood vessels around the outside edge of the retina.
Cryotherapy uses very cold temperatures to freeze and remove the retina’s peripheral area where abnormal blood vessels developed.
Both surgeries remove the affected part of the retina, so vision is affected. However, this is usually only a small portion of side vision. When these procedures work, the baby is no longer at risk of losing their vision entirely. They will grow up unaffected in many cases, aside from a slightly limited field of vision.
Other Treatments for Retinopathy of Prematurity
For Stage III retinopathy of prematurity, surgical approaches are best. They may prevent the retina from detaching and stabilize the eye. When this process has already begun, however, other treatment options may help. These center on keeping the vitreous gel in the eyeball from putting pressure on the retina and causing detachment. They include:
A scleral buckle procedure places a tiny silicone band around the eyeball. This prevents the vitreous gel from putting too much pressure on the scarred areas of the eyeball, allowing the retina to remain flat and secure. The band will need to be removed later. This procedure may be effective for babies with Stage IV or Stage V retinopathy of prematurity.
A vitrectomy removes the vitreous gel from the eye and replaces it with a special saline solution. Then, the surgeon can trim away the scar tissue and secure the retina back into place. This procedure is generally only used for Stage V retinopathy of prematurity.
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Seeking Compensation to Cover Retinopathy of Prematurity Treatment
Your child’s premature birth likely required a stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), extended hospitalization, and a wide array of tests, treatments, and screenings. If medical malpractice caused or failed to prevent their early birth and very low birth weight, you may be able to hold the doctor or hospital accountable.
Medical care providers have an obligation to provide a certain standard of care. Failure to do so can cause injuries, impairments, and pain and suffering. In the case of retinopathy of prematurity, this can include partial vision loss or blindness.
Building a birth injury case is likely not something you want to try to manage on your own. Working with a lawyer who understands retinopathy of prematurity—including the prescribed treatments and the possible impacts on your child’s future—will make navigating the legal system easier.
They will help you assign liability, investigate what happened, identify deadlines and damages, and bring in medical experts to review your child’s medical records and testify that medical negligence occurred. Most birth injury lawyers represent families based on contingency.
Enlist the Help of a Birth Injury Attorney Today
If you have questions about your child’s diagnosis and whether medical malpractice played a role, get help today by calling the Birth Injury Lawyers Group. Dial (800) 222-9529 to speak with a team member today about your legal options.