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What Florida parents should know about retinopathy of prematurity

Many Floridians have never heard of retinopathy of prematurity until it impacts their family or someone they know. According to the National Eye Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, most sufferers of ROP are premature infants weighing under three pounds who have not reached what is considered a full-term gestational period of 38 to 42 weeks. The NEI notes that the disorder, which usually affects both eyes, is among the most common reasons for vision impairment and blindness in children. Its effects can last a lifetime.

On our website, we provide information about the disorder. We discuss the causes, stages and treatment as well as active and ongoing research being done on ROP.

The specific causes of ROP are not known. However, what is known is that blood vessels move toward the retina as the baby grows in utero. The most critical growth stage for these vessels begins in the last weeks of pregnancy. If a baby is born before reaching those last weeks, the retina doesn't receive the nutrients and oxygen normally provided during that time.

That's why it is essential that premature babies be carefully monitored for ROP and other conditions associated with premature birth. If the baby is found to have the condition, a qualified ophthalmologist should probably be brought in.

The key to saving the sight of many premature babies is timely diagnosis of ROP in its early stages and proper treatment if it is diagnosed. It should be noted that most babies born with ROP do not become legally blind. Timely diagnosis and proper treatment can help save a baby's eyesight.

Not all cases of ROP or blindness resulting from ROP are caused by medical malpractice. However, legal advisors experienced with the condition can work to determine if improper medical care caused a child's vision impairment. If it did, medical professionals can and should be held financially responsible. Caring for a child with any special need or disability can be costly.

By holding doctors and medical facilities responsible for malpractice, parents can help ease the financial burdens that they and their child will face in the coming years. Medical malpractice litigation can also serve as an incentive for medical professionals and facilities to improve procedures for monitoring and caring for premature infants so that other families don't have to suffer unnecessarily.

Source: Freidin Brown, P.A., "Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)," accessed Aug. 16, 2014

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