Laser Treatment for Retinal Detachment in Premature Babies

Prematurely born babies often suffer from a disease of the eye which is caused by intensive neo-natal care providing oxygen to them due to the lack of development of their lungs. The disease is probably caused by the improper growth of the retinal blood vessels leading to scars and retinal detachment. The treatment is known as Retinopathy of Prematurity or ROP. It is likely to be continued for a short while since the condition gets resolved soon but in certain serious cases, the condition may lead to blindness.

The main part of the ROP treatment is peripheral retinal ablation. A solid state laser photocoagulation device is used to destroy the avascular retina. Those who suffer from severe conditions of retinal detachment might be in need of vitrectomy surgery and/or scleral buckling. This procedure is however not performed everywhere owing to its immense complications and risks of permanent damage and failure involved. Some doctors also prescribe the intravitreal injection of Bevacizumab (Avastin) as a means of supporting the eye. It provides certain advantages over laser treatment such as reduction in the level of anaesthesia, protection of the peripheral retina and lesser chances of high refractive error.

However, there are a number of ocular as well as system complications associated with this method and since there has been no solution to this, the application of this method is considered risky by most doctors. The main reason behind the worries is the fact that the main ingredients in Bevacizumab leads to the prevention of growth of abnormal blood vessels, not only in the eye but can also affect the necessary development of the tissues in the kidney and lungs. Another treatment method is the use of oral propranolol but safety is an issue here too. A test conducted on premature babies with the use of the oral propranolol revealed that 19% suffered conditions of hypotension and bradycardia though the reduction in risks of development of retinal problems to the next stage were reduced to a large extent.

However, treatment is not the end of it. Someone who has been diagnosed with ROP has to follow up with treatment methods for the rest of his or her life. Though treatment conditions might differ, not visiting the doctor on a regular basis, especially during infancy can lead to further damage.

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