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Eye Exam for Retinopathy of Prematurity

Definition

Eye exams can show the tissue and blood vessels at the back of the eye. This area is called the retina of the eye. Babies with retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) have problems with blood vessel growth in this area.

Normal Anatomy of the Eye

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Reasons for Procedure

ROP can cause vision problems or loss in some babies. This exam is done to:

  • Screen for ROP in babies that are high risk—test will be repeated until blood vessels in eyes have fully grown
  • Track changes in babies that have ROP

Possible Complications

During the exam, the baby may need eye drops. The doctor will go over any problems that may be caused by eye drops, such as:

  • Stinging or discomfort in the eye
  • Light sensitivity
  • Blurred vision
  • Eyelid swelling
  • Red eyes

Talk about these risks with the doctor before the eye exam.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • Do not feed the baby right before the exam.
  • Ask about ways to help calm the baby during the exam. A pacifier may help.

The doctor will put eye drops in the baby’s eyes. These will make the pupils open wide. The drops will take about 30 to 60 minutes to work.

Anesthesia

Eyedrops may be used to numb the eyes. This will help keep the baby comfortable.

Description of the Procedure

The baby will be gently held during the exam. A special device will keep the baby's eyelids open. The doctor will look into the eye with a special lens. It will send a beam of bright light into the eye. This will help the doctor see the blood vessels. The doctor may also use a tool to move the eye in different directions.

How Long Will It Take?

30 to 60 minutes total but the test itself is just a few minutes

Will It Hurt?

The eye drops can cause stinging. The bright light can irritate the baby but the test will be over quickly. The care team will take steps to keep the baby as comfortable as possible. Medicine may be needed if the baby is having trouble with comfort.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

After the exam, the doctor will talk to you about the baby’s eyes. Follow up with the doctor for any further exams or procedures.

At Home

The baby’s eyes may be dilated for 4 to 24 hours.

Call Your Doctor

Call the doctor if your baby has any problems such as:

  • Discharge from the eye
  • Redness or swelling
  • Not responding to objects, movement, or light
  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Any new symptoms

If you think your baby has an emergency, call for medical help right away.

RESOURCES:

Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
http://www.healthychildren.org

National Eye Institute
http://www.nei.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Ophthalmology Society
http://www.eyesite.ca

Canadian Pediatric Society
http://www.cps.ca

REFERENCES:

Freitas, A, Mörschbächer, R, Thorell, M, et al. Incidence and risk factors for retinopathy of prematurity: a retrospective cohort study. Int J Retin Vitr 4, 20 (2018). Accessed December 23, 2020.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/retinopathy-of-prematurity-rop-20. Accessed December 23, 2020 .

Retinopathy of prematurity. National Eye Institute website. Available at: https://www.nei.nih.gov/health/rop. Accessed December 23, 2020.

Last reviewed February 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN  Last Updated: 12/23/2020