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More Very Preterm Births Is Raising Retinopathy Incidence

Last Updated: October 14, 2009.

The increasing number of extremely preterm babies who are surviving is increasing the incidence of retinopathy of prematurity, according to a study published in the October issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 14 (HealthDay News) -- The increasing number of extremely preterm babies who are surviving is increasing the incidence of retinopathy of prematurity, according to a study published in the October issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Dordi Austeng, M.D., of the University Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden, and colleagues conducted a study of 707 live-born infants born at less than 27 weeks' gestation, of whom 506 survived to the time of first eye examination at 5 weeks of age.

In all, 368 (72.7 percent) of the babies had retinopathy of prematurity, including 37.9 percent classified as mild cases and 34.8 percent as severe cases, the researchers found. The strongest predictor of retinopathy was gestational age, rather than birth weight.

"Improvements in neonatal care have increased the survival rates of a new population of extremely preterm infants. The present national, population-based study shows that such infants are at high risk for retinopathy of prematurity and that the risk is reduced by 50 percent for each increase in the week of gestational age at birth," the authors write. "The incidence was reduced from 100 percent in the five infants born at 22 weeks' gestation to 56 percent in those born at 26 completed weeks."

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