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Doc Ophthalmol. 2013 Aug;127(1):41-55. doi: 10.1007/s10633-013-9397-7. Epub 2013 Jun 13.

Visual function in preterm infants: visualizing the brain to improve prognosis.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics (Neurology), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Considerable development of the visual system occurs in the third trimester of life, a time when very preterm-born infants are in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Their very early birth during a period of rapid and marked neurodevelopment and their clinical course makes them a very high-risk population. A range of different events impacts brain development and the visual system, leading to significant long-term visual dysfunction. Improved neuroimaging techniques provide an important window on the early brain and visual system development of these vulnerable infants. Greater understanding of the etiology of visual impairment subsequent to preterm birth and the timing of critical processes will allow early recognition and the earlier implementations of interventions. In the longer term, this will help clinicians optimize NICU practice to reduce the incidence of visual dysfunction in these children.

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