A surgical technique to correct a blinding condition in premature babies appears to have long-term benefits.
Children born with retinopathy in prematurity (ROP) have an abnormal growth of blood vessels along the surface of the retina.If this is not treated , the condition can lead to legal blindness in about 60 percent of patients.
A surgical procedure Cryotherapy, is employed in which a freezing probe is placed on the surface of the eye to destroy cells within the retina that produce the irregular blood vessels.
Researchers from New York report on a 10-year follow up of 291 children born prematurely in 1986 and 1987. Those with ROP in both eyes were treated with cryotherapy in one eye. Those with ROP in one eye either received treatment in the affected eye or did not receive any treatment.
Results after 10 years showed that total retinal detachments continued to occur in untreated eyes throughout the follow-up period, increasing from 38.6 percent when the children were 5.5 years old to 41.4 percent by the time they were 10 years old. Treated eyes remained stable at 22 percent. In addition, when the children were evaluated at 5.5 years old most eyes that hadn't been treated had a visual acuity of 20/40 or better than those that had been treated. At the ten-year follow up, though, these findings dissipated and treated eyes were just as likely as untreated eyes to see well.