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December 3, 2018

Plan to curb blindness risk in premature newborn

Lahore

December 3, 2018

LAHORE: The Mobile Retinopathy of Prematurity Screening Programme has been launched at Lahore General Hospital to establish outreach screening centres for ROP and to strengthen the ROP programmes of tertiary care hospitals in Lahore.

According to a press release issued here on Sunday, two mobile retinal cameras have been donated by a private organisation to LGH to examine the retina of babies born premature. One camera will be used to screen babies at Lahore General Hospital (LGH) while the other will be used as a mobile service for other government hospitals in Punjab free of cost. This will be helpful for post-discharge evaluations of patients that could go blind.

In the inaugural ceremony, LGH Principal Prof Muhammad Tayyab said that the programme would be a milestone for preventing and curing ophthalmic problems and diseases of retina of premature babies.

Senior doctors, professors and eye and pediatric specialists were present on the occasion. They highlighted the sensitivity of the issue and stressed upon the need to highlight the achievements in this sector for the first time in LGH. The project has been started in collaboration with Dr Umar Khalil Mian, head of Retina Department, Montefiore Medical College, New York and Prof Sajid Maqbool, ex-dean of Children Hospital, Lahore. It was stated that Pakistan currently ranked fourth in number of premature births, 15 per cent and the IMR of Pakistan was 65.8. It faces a large premature infant population that can become blind for life, estimated at 10,000 per year. “We currently saved 70 babies from going blind at LGH”, the medical experts said. Eight hundred babies are being examined for ROP every year at LGH. It is a potentially permanently blinding disease when not treated appropriately. It is a disease of the blood vessels of the eye in premature children.

All premature babies with gestational age 35 week or less and birth weight less than 2kg need to have eye examination to detect this silent blinding disease. Treatment needs to be done within 48 hours of reaching a critical stage (type I ROP) which can only be identified by a trained ophthalmologist’s examination or the pictures taken by a RetCam (a specialised camera to take pictures of the premature baby’s retina).

The time of treatment is within 6-8 weeks of the baby’s birth (gestational age of 36-38 weeks). The rate of preterm births in Pakistan is on the rise and currently stands at around 20 per cent, fourth highest rate in the world. Prematurity and low weight are key risk factors for this disease.

Prof Moin from LGH said that outdoor facility for the screening was run on every Tuesday and Thursday in LGH. Poor control of oxygen delivery causes Type I ROP in heavier and older premature infants, so the consensus of all ophthalmologists and neonatologists was to expand the screening criteria. The premature babies are usually discharged at 34 weeks of age due to overcrowding and subsequently miss their critical 36-38 week critical gestational age.

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