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Retinopathy of Prematurity Screening Service (ROP)

The Orthoptist’s Role

The Retinopathy of Prematurity Screening Service (ROP) is a screening service which is offered to babies screened for Retinopathy of Prematurity.

The babies are given an initial appointment 6 months after their examination by the Ophthalmologist. They are screened for any defect in visual acuity, ocular motility, strabismus and visual perception difficulties associated with preterm birth. If a defect is found they are referred back to the Ophthalmologist. If no defect is found they are seen at 2 and a half years of age and, then until they achieve a logmar V.A of 0.2 E.E. They are then seen in their reception year in the screening programme and then followed up 2 yearly until aged 10 years old.

These premature babies are screened because they are statistically 3 times more likely to develop squint and / or refractive error (a need for glasses) than babies born at full-term. Recent research has shown that 20% of premature babies without ROP still develop squint or a significant refractive error.

What is Retinopathy of Prematurity?

Babies who are born prematurely still have a growing retina. The retina usually takes about 1-4 weeks to develop. This means it is fully grown about  1 month after birth in a full term baby. If a baby is born prematurely, the retina will take longer to fully grow after birth. During the course of this longer than normal growth period after birth, the retinal blood vessels can develop abnormally. This can seriously affect the baby’s sight and is called ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity).

Criteria for screening for ROP:

Birth weight less than 1501g and / or infants born at 31+6 weeks and under.

The babies are examined 4-7weeks after birth.