Ocular morbidity in infants of very low birth weight.


In the years 1977-8,258 infants weighing less than 1500 g were born at, or transferred to, the Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne; 177 (68.5%) survived, and 111 of these attended for an ophthalmic examination. Significant ocular lesions were found in 37 (33%): 21 (19%) children had squint, 19 (17%) had a significant refractive error, 11 (10%) had cicatricial retrolental fibroplasia (RLF), and 3 (2.7%) had very poor vision due to optic atrophy associated with cerebral palsy. No children were blind owing to RLF, indicating that the recent increase in survival rate of infants of very low birth weight has not been accompanied by an increase in the prevalence of severe RLF. In those children with neither cerebral palsy nor RLF the prevalence of squint was 11% and of refractive errors 13%. Myopia was found mainly in children who had shown RLF changes in the neonatal period. It is recommended that infants of very low birth weight continue to be screened in the premature nursery for RLF, and also at the age of 2, for the detection of refractive errors and squint.

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