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J AAPOS. 2006 Apr;10(2):102-6.

Incidence, distribution, and duration of birth-related retinal hemorrhages: a prospective study.

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Ophthalmic Sciences Unit, Academic Unit of Ophthalmology and Orthoptics, University of Sheffield, and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, UK.



Retinal hemorrhages secondary to birth trauma are part of the differential diagnosis of intraocular hemorrhages seen in the setting of Shaken baby syndrome in very young infants. This prospective study aimed to document the morphology, distribution and, most importantly, the natural history of these hemorrhages using digital imaging.


Infants were recruited as soon after birth as possible and examined by indirect ophthalmoscopy. Retinal hemorrhages were photographed using the RetCam 120. Birth history was documented from the medical notes. Infants were reexamined and photographed until hemorrhages had resolved.


Data were analyzed for a total of 53 neonates. The number of infants with retinal hemorrhage was 18 (34%). The incidence in relation to mode of delivery was as follows: vacuum delivery, 77.8%; normal vaginal delivery, 30.4%; cesarean section, 8.3%; forceps delivery, 30.3%. All hemorrhages were intraretinal and in all but two infants hemorrhages had resolved by 16 days. In two subjects hemorrhages were still present at 31 and 58 days, respectively. Both these infants were delivered by vacuum delivery.


The RetCam 120 provides excellent documentation of retinal hemorrhages and their natural history. We have demonstrated hemorrhages still present at 58 days in a child born by vacuum delivery and this may have important implications for consideration in the differential diagnosis of Shaken baby syndrome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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