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Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a condition that only affects extremely premature babies. Fortunately, ROP is a treatable condition that should never lead to a baby born blind. Doctors can and must spot the ROP warning signs, monitor the progress of the disease closely and provide timely treatment that prevents vision loss or blindness from occurring. Unfortunately, every year hundreds of children suffer permanent blindness because doctors fail to do their jobs correctly. The treatments listed below, if performed by a qualified physician timely, can stop ROP before it causes blindness or vision loss.
We cannot accept that ROP will inevitably blind a segment of the neonatal population. This thought defends the wrongdoing of physicians and hospitals. The treating ophthalmologist must always strike a balance between over-treatment of children that would otherwise have their disease regress and disappear versus the clinical benefit derived from laser therapy and photo-coagulation.
The most important study in the treatment of ROP is ETROP (Early Treatment of ROP). It is a cardinal rule for these doctors that early treatment preserves vision.
Medical literature states that 50 percent of children suffering from ROP lose vision. Some ophthalmologists argue that they must weigh the dangers of surgery against the benefits of treatment. Additionally, there are many risks if the treatment is done too early. Sadly, once the retina detaches, most treatment is ineffectual. Babies are blinded. As between treating early versus preserving vision, which would you choose?
A diagnosis of ROP should not end with a blind child. Neonatal ophthalmologists must closely monitor the progression or regression of ROP and treat the condition accordingly. Cryotherapy is an older method doctors used to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels, though it is now somewhat outdated. Cryotherapy involves freezing the blood vessels and stopping their abnormal growth. This prevents them from scraping against or sticking to the retina.
In modern medicine, laser surgery can prevent ROP blindness. It has several advantages over cryotherapy, including reduced risk of pain and reduced risk of hemorrhaging. We know laser surgery works: it has a proven success rate with extremely minimal risks. Also known as peripheral retinal ablation or diode laser photocoagulation, surgeons use a laser device in the NICUs to “burn off” parts of the retina to halt or reverse the vessels’ growth. Laser surgery is currently the main course of acceptable ROP treatment. It is successful in almost all cases when performed properly.
Avastin (bevacizumab) was originally a drug used for cancer treatment. A research scientist tried Avastin for the treatment of ROP and found that it resulted in incredible reversion of the disease process. However, despite its effectiveness, the long-term consequences of using Avastin are completely unknown. An ophthalmologist at the University of Texas published a study. In it, the doctor instructed ophthalmologists who are screening and treating ROP to forego surgery altogether in favor of using Avastin solely as the first line of defense. This put most of the top research scientists and physicians into a frenzy. They published many editorials in well-known periodicals such as the New England Journal of Medicine. Many editorials cautioned that until long-term studies are completed, doctors should use Avastin with great caution. The greatest concerns are of other organ complications. Additionally, there is the prospect that the ROP may reappear after the child reaches adulthood.
Adults who suffer from retinal detachment are much less likely to benefit from any surgery. Therefore, laser surgery remains the principle line of defense for the prevention of blindness for children who suffer from retinopathy of prematurity.
If you are caring for a blind baby as a result of ROP, we can review your medical records, determine what went wrong and hold negligent medical professionals accountable for the damages they cause. Our baby blindness attorneys focus their resources almost exclusively on cases like yours. We offer free consultations to discuss your potential claim. Do not hesitate to contact our office for more information about baby blindness from ROP or ROP in premature infants.