Retinopathy of Prematurity in Infants Born Before 27 Weeks of Gestation : A National Population-based Study in Sweden During 2004-2007

Abstract: Background: Improved neonatal care has resulted in an increasing population of surviving infants. Neonatal morbidity in preterm infants is, however, high, and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is one of the major neonatal morbidities. Observations have suggested that ROP might have a different course in extremely preterm compared to more mature infants. Aims: To study the incidence, natural history and treatment of the disease, and the implications regarding screening recommendations for the population of extremely preterm infants. Methods: A national, population-based study of neonatal morbidity in infants born before 27 gestational weeks was performed in Sweden during 2004 to 2007. ROP screening started in the 5th postnatal week and continued until the retina was completely vascularized. Results: Of the 506 infants surviving until the first ROP examination, 73% developed ROP; 38% mild ROP and 35% severe ROP. Ninety-nine infants (20%) were treated. A log-linear relationship was found between severe ROP and gestational age (GA) at birth, and the risk of ROP was reduced by 50% for each week of increase in GA at birth (Paper I). Postmenstrual age (PMA) at onset of ROP was significantly related to GA at birth, as was the site of onset of ROP. ROP had a predilection to start in the nasal retina in the most immature infants. There were significant relations between PMA at onset of ROP and severity of ROP as well as between the site of onset of ROP and severe ROP (Paper III). The most immature infants had a higher risk of reaching treatment criteria for ROP, a higher risk of progression from ROP 3 to treatment criteria, and they reached these criteria at an earlier PMA than the less immature infants (Paper II). According to our results, the first examination can be postponed until a PMA of 31 weeks in infants born before 27 weeks of gestation, since onset of ROP 3 did not occur before this age, and criteria for treatment were not reached before 32 weeks. The majority of infants (75%) were treated during a limited period, i.e. before a PMA of 39 weeks (Paper IV).