Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is a disorder that has the potential to cause blindness. It primarily affects premature infants that weigh 2.75 pounds or less at birth. The smaller a baby’s birth weight, the more likely that the baby is to develop ROP. The disorder typically develops in both eyes and is one of the leading causes of vision loss that occurs during childhood.
ROP occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow and spread throughout the retina. These abnormal blood vessels are fragile and can leak. The leaking scars the retina and pulls it out of position. When the retina is pulled out of place, it is called retina detachment. Retinal detachment is the key cause behind the visual impairment and blindness that is due to ROP.
There are a number of complex factors that might play a role in the development of ROP. During gestation, the eye begins to form around 16 weeks into pregnancy. It starts with the blood vessels of the retina beginning to form at the optic nerve in the back of the eye. These blood vessels grow gradually toward the edges of the retina, supplying the necessary oxygen and nutrients. During the last 12 weeks of pregnancy, the eye develops rapidly. Babies are typically born with retinas that have nearly complete blood vessels.
When a baby is born prematurely, before the blood vessels have grown to the edges of the retina, normal blood vessel growth may stop. This means that the edges of the retina may not get enough oxygen and nutrients. As a result, it is believed that the retina sends out signals to other parts of the retina for nourishment. This causes abnormal blood vessels to grow. These are fragile, weak blood vessels that can bleed and result in retinal scarring. When the scars shrink, they pull on the retina to the point that it detaches from the back of the eye.
If your baby has been affected by ROP as a result of a doctor’s error, contact the Wausau medical malpractice lawyers of Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ® at 800-242-2874 to discuss your situation and to determine your legal options.