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Snapshot Science: How Are Researchers Improving Infants’ Eye Disease Screening?

Published on
Jan 9, 2020
Every year, about 70,000 infants in the U.S. receive diagnostic exams for retinopathy of prematurity.

Every year, about 70,000 infants in the U.S. receive diagnostic exams for retinopathy of prematurity.

The findings:

A new study confirms that an improved method for predicting retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a leading cause of blindness that affects premature babies, reduced the number of unnecessary diagnostic examinations for infants while also raising severe disease detection up to 100 percent. 

Why it matters: 

Approximately 70,000 infants in the U.S. receive retinal examinations for ROP because they meet the existing screening criteria. However, just 5 to 10 percent of these infants actually require treatment, and only about half develop ROP. Sharpening the specificity of screening criteria can reduce eye exams that are physically stressful for premature infants and lower unnecessary healthcare costs. At the same time, more specific criteria can better identify premature infants at risk for severe ROP, which affects the blood vessels of the retina.   

Who conducted the study: 

Researchers at CHOP led the study’s multicenter team consisting of experts from 41 hospitals across the U.S. and Canada. Gil Binenbaum, MD, attending surgeon in the Division of Ophthalmology and chair of the G-ROP Study Group, is the study’s first and corresponding author.

How they did it: 

Over the last decade, Dr. Binenbaum and his colleagues developed and refined the improved screening method by gathering information from over 11,000 infants to develop and validate a more specific set of criteria called the “G-ROP criteria.” The G-ROP criteria are based on a model that combines birth weight,  gestational age, and weight gain measurements into user-friendly screening criteria. In this most recent study, the team tested the G-ROP criteria in over 3,900 premature infants across 41 North American hospitals. The approach correctly predicted 219 of 219 cases of Type 1 ROP while reducing the number of infants undergoing examinations by 36 percent. 

Quick thoughts: 

“This study successfully validated the accuracy of the G-ROP screening criteria, which now can be used clinically to reduce the number of infants receiving eye examinations for ROP,” Dr. Binenbaum said in a CHOP News story. “Based upon these new findings and the findings of our previous study, we recommend that these criteria are incorporated into national ROP screening guidelines.”

Where the study was published:

The findings appeared in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Where to learn more:

Get more details on CHOP News and read our previous coverage of the G-ROP study on Bench to Bedside