Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) affects approximately 60-70% of infants born at less than 32 weeks’ gestational age or less than 1500g birth weight.
ROP occurs when a baby is born too early to have reached an important milestone in the development of their eyes. To function properly, the retina needs a constant supply of blood to provide oxygen. The blood vessels that supply this blood usually develop between weeks 16 and 36 of pregnancy. From 16 weeks’ gestation the blood vessels grow gradually toward the edges of the retina, supplying oxygen and nutrients. During the last 12 weeks of a pregnancy, the eye develops rapidly. When a baby is born full-term, the retinal blood vessel growth is mostly complete (the retina usually finishes growing a few weeks to a month after birth). But if a baby is born prematurely, before these blood vessels have reached the edges of the retina, normal vessel growth may stop and the edges of the retina may not get enough oxygen and nutrients therefore developing ROP.
National data around screening for ROP is monitored by the Royal College of Paediatric and Child Health (RCPCH) through the National Neonatal Audit Programme (NNAP). NNAP collate data from each neonatal unit to monitor and ensure care around ROP is achieving national standards. NNAP review ROP data based on the following question:
‘Are all babies with a gestational age at birth <32+0 weeks or <1501g at birth undergoing first Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) screening in accordance with the current national guideline recommendations’.
The full NNAP report can be accessed via NNAP on line:
Each neonatal unit has a designated ROP team made up of specialist nurses and doctors, called Ophthalmologists. The ROP team will co-ordinate ROP screening and treatment and provide advice and support to both parents and staff. Depending on the severity of the ROP your baby will be screened either weekly or fortnightly. For additional information please contact your ROP team or follow the link below for the parent information booklets on screening and treatment of ROP.
Information for parents on screening and treatment of ROP:
Information for healthcare professionals about ROP: