Retinopathy of Prematurity Surgery

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is due to the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyes of premature infants. The retina is the part of the eye that allows us to see. The central area of the retina is the most important part of eye tissue for seeing straight ahead and focusing to perform such functions as reading, seeing and distinguishing colors.

A common form of ROP treatment is surgery. Surgery is performed in such a way as to preserve this more important visual function of the center of the retina and stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels at its periphery.

Four general types of surgery are performed on the eyes of babies with ROP. The methods used most often are laser surgery, cryotherapy, scleral buckling and vitrectomy.

Laser surgery and cryotherapy are used to halt the abnormal growth of blood vessels at the retina's periphery. This is accomplished by creating scar tissue in this area of the retina. Laser surgery is the most common method used today and has virtually replaced cryotherapy. Scleral buckling and vitrectomy are done on more advanced cases of ROP in which the retina has become detached.

Laser Surgery

This approach uses a beam of light focused on the peripheral parts of the retina where the abnormal blood vessels have not yet developed. The laser burns and then scars the tissue, preventing it from allowing more abnormal blood vessels to grow. Laser surgery takes approximately a half hour or a little more for each eye. Some normal redness and swelling may occur around the eyelids after surgery. Drops will need to be placed in the eyes for a week.

Cryotherapy

Cryotherapy, like laser surgery, also is used to scar the peripheral retina and stop the growth of abnormal blood vessels. This method uses a metal probe that has been exposed to liquid nitrogen, an extremely cold substance. The surgeon touches the cold probe to the sclera or white part of the eye. The extreme cold passes rapidly to the peripheral retina, freezing and scarring the area. This procedure also produces temporary redness and swelling. Eye drops need to be added for about a week.

Scleral Buckling

This procedure is used when the retina has begun to pull away from the wall of the eye, or becomes partially detached. The retinal surgeon first uses laser surgery or cryotherapy to prevent further growth of abnormal blood vessels. Then, the surgeon wraps and stitches a band, usually made of silicone, around the side of the eye. The band makes the retina stay in place.

This procedure takes between one and two hours. Redness in the eyes and swelling around them will occur for a while. Until the eye heals, it is covered with a patch. The buckle should be examined by the surgeon every six months or more often if it is creating problems.

Vitrectomy

This procedure removes the vitreous which is the clear gel-like substance in the center of the eye. The vitreous is replaced with a saline solution. Vitrectomy enables the retinal surgeon to remove scar tissue from the inside of the eye and release the tugging on the retina by the scar.

The eye will have some temporary redness as well as swelling around the lids. A patch will be placed on the eye until it heals. It may take several weeks for the eye to recover. These babies will need eye exams often.

Contact Retinopathy of Prematurity Lawyers

If your baby required surgery for ROP, you might be entitled to compensation to pay for the surgery and other medical bills associated with your baby's condition if negligence played a part in your baby's condition. To learn more, contact our ROP lawyers today.