Retinopathy of Prematurity

Retinopathy of Prematurity is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Proliferative disorder of the retinal blood vessels in premature infants: The normal retinal vascularization occurs nasally at ~36 weeks’ gestational age and temporally at ~40 weeks’ gestational age.
  • System(s) affected: nervous
  • Synonym(s): ROP; retrolental fibroplasia


  • 65.8% of infants weighing <1,251 g at birth and 81.6% of those weighing <1,000 g
  • Predominant age: premature infants
  • Predominant sex: male = female

Etiology and Pathophysiology

Oxidative processes (influenced by high levels of arterial oxygen) in immature retina may be an important causative factor.

African American infants appear less susceptible.

Risk Factors

  • Low birth weight
  • Poor postnatal weight gain
  • Prematurity
  • Supplemental oxygen; once the retina becomes fully vascularized, oxygen does not affect the retina.
  • Supplemental oxygen given to premature infants with moderate ROP will not make the retinopathy worse.
  • Maternal diabetes is associated with the development of ROP in premature infants with a birth weight of ≥1,500 g.

Commonly Associated Conditions

Neonatal respiratory distress syndrome

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