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Telemedicine based screening of infants at risk for retinopathy of prematurity.

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Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology, Strabismology and Ophthalmogenetics, University of Regensburg, Germany.


Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is a major risk for permanent visual loss in extreme prematures. In stage 3+ (zone I and II), defined as threshold disease, the risk for retinal detachment with subsequent blindness is about 50% without treatment, compared to only a few percent with laser photoablation. Visualisation and interpretation of the critical retinal changes requires a high degree of expertise. Therefore, screening by general ophthalmologists will not identify all cases at threshold necessary to prevent blindness in as many infants as possible. The development of a new digital wide-field camera system (RetCam 120) allows documentation of nearly the entire retina within minutes. Recently, sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive power and negative predictive power have been evaluated to be high. Data collection is also possible by trained staff of the neonatal care units. Data can be transferred electronically, even though it could be transferred through physical transport. Analyzing the data in a central reading center specialized in the treatment of ROP will allow optimal timing of treatment and thus salvage vision in more infants. In addition, unnecessary referrals that are not only expensive but put also stress on the very vulnerable prematures can be avoided. At present, efforts are made to realize a pilot project in Eastern Bavaria that will test the potentials of telemedicine based screening for ROP. In addition, the potential of the system will be evaluated in other neuroophthalmological diseases.

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