For more than 50 years it has been known that oxygen therapy can lead to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Recent clinical research has led many neonatologists to lower the target oxygen saturation alarm limits to 85-93% and to titrate the inspired oxygen in small increments.

Despite efforts to optimize oxygen therapy, the number of cases of severe ROP remains high as more extremely low birth weight infants survive. Based on new insights into the pathogenesis of ROP, there are multiple interventions, in addition to optimizing oxygen therapy that may help decrease severe ROP.

Interventions that have the potential to prevent phase I ROP (birth to ≤32 weeks PMA) include increasing retinal erythropoietin (exogenous rHuEPO) and serum IGF-1 (breast milk and/or exogenous IGF-1), maintaining serum glucose below 120 mg, and providing omega-3 supplements. Interventions with potential to prevent proliferative ROP in phase II (infants >32-34 weeks PMA) include treating anemia with a liberal policy of transfusion in premature infants with stage III ROP, photopic adaptation, vitamin E supplements (>34 weeks PMA), and omega-3 supplements.

The WINROP algorithm has shown promise as a biomarker in the early identification of extremely low birth weight infants at high risk for proliferative ROP.

As there is interplay of multiple factors in the causation of ROP, we suggest that the simultaneous application of some combination of multiple interventions, mentioned above, may reduce the burden of ROP in the most vulnerable infants. These concepts need study in well-designed randomized clinical trials before being incorporated into clinical practice.

PMID: 21372594

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