Is Retinopathy of Prematurity Permanent?

Posted on July 15, 2022 by Shapiro Law Group

newbornRetinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a growing medical concern eating into the medical industry. While treatment plans and surgeries are in place to help curb the disease, severe cases where the retina is fully detached remain the real challenge.

Around 3.9 million infants are born in the United States yearly. Out of all that number, approximately 14,000 usually suffer from ROP — 90% being mild diseases. However, 1,500 of those with ROP are usually severe cases and need intensive medical treatment.

These numbers are quite surprisingly high, and note that around 600 of all infants born in the US each year go permanently blind from ROP.

If you have a malpractice case in retinopathy, get in touch with Shapiro Law Group to get help from experienced lawyers.

For now, let us first understand what ROP is, everything else related to it, and the possible treatment plans.

What is Retinopathy of Prematurity?

Retinopathy of prematurity is an infant blindness disease resulting from abnormal growth of retinal blood vessels. This usually occurs in the light-sensitive parts of the eyes, which are the retina of babies born prematurely. It is a common disease in babies born before 31 weeks and weighs around 1,250 grams at birth.

Most cases of ROP can resolve without treatment or damage to the baby’s retina. However, some severe cases can easily cause the retina’s detachment from the eye’s wall, leading to blindness.

Causes of ROP

Children born at nine months usually have the blood vessels in their eyes fully developed. This happens just a few weeks before birth.

When a child is born early, they get exposed to many factors like bright lights, medicine, temperature changes, and oxygen. All of these can easily affect the development of their eye’s blood vessels, leading to ROP.

The other things that can cause ROP to include the following:

  • Birth before full term is popularly known as premature birth. Infants born at 28 to 31 weeks are at greater risk;
  • The low birth weight — which is usually less than 3 pounds;
  • Putting the infant under oxygen immediately after birth.

Premature babies with other underlying health problems are also at higher risk. Additionally, white babies are more likely to get ROP than black babies.

Symptoms of ROP

ROP is an asymptomatic disease, making it challenging to notice unless medical experts perform a screening. However, in most cases, the mother notices the blindness, which can happen at six months or even later. Therefore, screening is vital for all premature babies.

Some of the known forms that doctors can associate with ROP symptoms include:

  • Severe myopia
  • Subnormal vision
  • White reflex in the pupil
  • Crossed eyes and squint

Stages of ROP

ROP has five developmental stages. While using OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) in ROP, doctors can easily track the seriousness of ROP and administer the necessary treatment before it advances to severe levels. These stages include:

  • Stage 1: The babies born with ROP in this stage can pretty much get better without treatment and later develop a healthy vision.
  • Stage 2: The abnormalities are moderate, and the doctors watch keenly to ensure the ROP does not worsen.
  • Stage 3: There are a few cases of babies with ROP Stage 3 but still get better with no treatment. However, others need treatment to stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels.
  • Stage 4: Babies with ROP in this stage have a partial detachment of the retina, and treatment is vital for them.
  • Stage 5: In this stage, the retina completely detaches. Even if they undergo treatment, these babies can still go blind or suffer vision loss.

Stages 4 and 5 are pretty severe, and in most cases, these babies will need surgery. But even with all that, there is still no guarantee that they will regain their vision.

Treating Retinopathy of Prematurity

Luckily, there is a treatment for ROP before it gets severe.

One known form of treatment is “photocoagulation.” This is viable for Stages 1 to 3.

In Stage 1, when the disease is less severe, and the baby cannot tolerate photocoagulation, they can get an injection of anti-VEGF agents instead.

Surgery becomes the viable option for stages 4 and 5. The surgery involves vitrectomy or scleral buckling.

ROP Malpractice Case(s)

The hospitals and doctors must closely monitor a prematurely born baby, so their ROP does not increase in severity.

  • Some malpractice cases include failing to perform prompt surgery to prevent ROP from worsening.
  • Other causes include failing to monitor the development of the blood vessels and performing surgery at the first notice of ROP.
  • They can also fail to properly control the tapering oxygen necessary for fully developing the abnormal blood vessels.

In most cases of malpractice, the parents can choose to sue the doctor or hospital in question with the help of an ROP lawyer. If the case goes to court, there is usually compensation that the parents can get. It depends on the severity of the issues aside from the possible revocation of the license of the negligent healthcare professional or license to operate the hospital.

Instead of going against the specialists and the hospitals responsible alone, you need to get the help of a medical malpractice attorney. A baby blindness lawyer will help you deal with the case of the negligent hospital or specialists accountable should they refuse to admit to their wrongdoings.

Shapiro Law Group has the best medical malpractice lawyers who can help you make the responsible individuals or hospitals face the law. Call us today and have a free consultation with us.


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