To avoid Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) development that could lead to blindness
Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women and Children and Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi, part of Moorfields Eye Hospital London and United Eastern Medical Services in Abu Dhabi, signed today an agreement that entails examining the eyes of all newborn premature babies who were born earlier than 31 weeks of gestation at Danat Al Emarat Hospital to avoid the development of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). ROP is a potentially blinding condition that affects premature babies and is one of the most common causes of visual loss in childhood.
Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa, CEO of the United Eastern Medical Services in Abu Dhabi said, “As we see more premature babies at Danat Al Emarat Hospital, the need to implement such a program is high. The agreement will be fully implemented within the coming three months, and includes examining the eyes of all neonates at Danat Al Emarat Hospital’s Neonate Intensive Care Unit (NICU) following the latest international standards. Examinations will be carried on by Moorfields ophthalmologists in Abu Dhabi and also visiting consultants from Moorfields London, who will visit the hospital as part of the program.”
He also explained that advanced high-tech equipment will be purchased for the eyes examination and the timely diagnosis of ROP cases which is essential to identify an immediate treatment plan and to avoid the occurrence of any complications. He pointed out that ophthalmologists from Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi have actually started the first phase of the agreement, where initial basic screening is being done. Through this agreement, the aim is to improve neonates care, keep newborns safe and healthy by protecting them from various possible diseases through early diagnosis and the avoidance of complications.
Professor Robert Scott, Medical Director and Retinal Surgery and Vitreous Consultant in Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi, seconded from Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, stated, “as part of the first phase of the agreement, Moorfields ophthalmologists have already screened 15 newborn premature babies at Danat Al Emarat Hospital, and the results showed that all 15 babies were in good health and not suffering from any problems in their retina.”
He explained that during the 31st week of pregnancy, the retina is fully developed in the fetus inside the uterus. And in case the baby was born before the 31st week of pregnancy, or weighed less than 1500 gm after birth, his retina must be examined to ensure it is healthy. He pointed out that if a baby is born before the 31st week of gestation, he is more prone to developing ROP, which leads to complications like blindness if the treatment was delayed.
Prof. Scott said, “When the agreement is fully implemented in few months, all premature newborns born before the 31st week of pregnancy, will undergo this examination by ophthalmologists from Moorfields Eye Hospital in the Neonate Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Danat Al Emarat Hospital in Abu Dhabi, noting that in case a baby was diagnosed with ROP condition, the baby will be treated early at the hospital’s NICU or Operating Theatre using the latest technologies of laser therapy focusing on the complicated part of the newborn’s retina. The therapy session lasts for 45 minutes, and treatment may continue for several days.”
“Infants suffering from ROP are more prone to developing eye problems in the future, including myopia, glaucoma, strabismus, amblyopia and others. In case of early diagnosis of this condition, treatment should follow in a timely manner and thus complications are avoided,” Dr Scott added.
He said, “in case ROP was diagnosed late, the newborn might need complicated surgery. If the newborn was not diagnosed within the first 1-2 weeks after birth, 5% of the cases develop retinal detachment, which leads to blindness.” He stated that it is very important that the parent demands his/her newborn’s eyes to be examined before leaving the hospital in case of preterm birth, or in case the newborn weighed around 1500 gm or less, to avoid developing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).
According to international statistics, 15 million babies are born preterm every year, and this number is rising. Retinopathy of prematurity is usually more severe in very premature babies and if they are given too-high level of oxygen. If not recognized and treated, this can result in lifelong visual impairment or blindness.