Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is a relatively common eye disease among premature and low birth weight infants.
The second highest cause of blindness in children in America, it affects about 15,000 premature babies each year, with several hundred suffering complete or near-complete blindness. One of the most well-known people who lost his sight from ROP is musician Stevie Wonder.
ROP is typically mild with no short- or long-term consequences. The most serious ramifications can usually be prevented if the condition is diagnosed and treated properly. When blindness does occur, it’s often the result of medical malpractice and other substandard health care performed by the hospital, the neonatal ICU, the neonatologist, the pediatrician, and/or the ophthalmologist.
Factors Leading to ROP
Retinopathy of Prematurity generally occurs in both eyes at the same time because the blood vessels in a premature baby’s eyes fail to grow normally as a result of a lack of oxygen and nutrients. Other factors include anemia, poor weight gain, blood transfusion, infections, sepsis, respiratory distress, slow heart rate and breathing difficulties.
If premature infants are not carefully monitored for the development of ROP, the blood vessels in the baby’s eyes can begin leaking blood. This can result in scarring, which can then lead to a partial or complete retinal detachment, and blindness.
Importance of Screening Babies
Health care providers should screen all babies for possible ROP if they are born sooner than 32 weeks, or weigh less than 3 pounds at birth. This screening should be started within one week of birth, and continue at specific intervals in order to determine whether the infant’s blood vessels are developing normally.
When symptoms appear, providers should consider the following treatments, generally within forty-eight hours of diagnosis: Oxygen treatment; Freezing to prevent abnormal blood vessels from spreading (cryotherapy); Retinal ablation laser therapy to prevent abnormal blood vessels from spreading (photocoagulation); Placement of a silicone band around the eye and tightening it (scleral buckle); Removing the vitreous and replacing it with a saline solution (vitrectomy); and Retina repair surgery. For more facts about ROP, click National Eye Institute.
Compensation for medical malpractice due to an improperly treated Retinopathy of Prematurity lawsuit can include past and future medical expenses, past and future wage loss, other economic losses you and your child might sustain as a result of your child’s injuries, and punitive damages.
Lawyers at Smith LaCien LLP believe that when Retinopathy of Prematurity results in blindness or near blindness due to improper medical treatment, the responsible parties should be held accountable for damages. If you think you may have a case, contact us today at [email protected] or call (312) 815-6455.