An evaluation of the screening for retinopathy of prematurity in very-low-birth-weight babies at a tertiary hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa

Zahedah Dadoo, D E Ballot


Background. Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a leading cause of blindness for very-low-birth-weight (VLBW, <1 500 g) babies. ROP screening identifies babies that require treatment to prevent major visual impairment.

Objectives. To evaluate the screening for ROP at Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital (CMJAH) by reviewing the number of babies screened according to the CMJAH guidelines, the grades of ROP found and the treatment modality received. 

Methods. This was a retrospective record review of VLBW babies born between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2013 at CMJAH, whether inborn or transferred in. The babies were divided into two groups based on age at final outcome. Final outcome was defined as death, discharge or transfer out of the unit. The ‘early’ outcome group had their final outcome before day 28 of life. The ‘late’ outcome group had their final outcome at day 28 or more of life. The early outcome group qualified for outpatient ROP screening and the late outcome group qualified for inpatient ROP screening.

Results. There were a total of 572 VLBW babies at CMJAH during this time period. The babies had a mean birth weight of 1 127 (standard deviation (SD) 244.75) g and gestational age of 29 (2.743) weeks. The mean duration of stay was 29 (21.66) days and there were 309 female babies. Of these 572 babies, 304 comprised the early outcome group and 268 comprised the late outcome group. In the early outcome group babies who were transferred out of the unit or died were excluded; therefore the remaining 147 babies discharged home qualified for outpatient ROP screening. Inpatient ROP screening was carried out in 36/147 (24.4%) of these babies (not in accordance with ROP screening guidelines). ROP was documented in 4/36 (11.1%). Outpatient ROP screening records were unavailable. Exclusions from the late outcome group included five babies. In the late outcome group 111/263 (42.2%) were screened for ROP. ROP was found in 17%. One baby required treatment with intravitreal antivascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and three babies required surgery.  

Conclusions. More than half of the babies in the late outcome group were not screened during their stay (57.8%). More than one-third of babies were discharged prior to reaching the current recommended age for screening. Efforts need to be intensified to identify and screen all eligible babies prior to discharge. Outpatient ROP screening is not well documented; therefore prevalence cannot be established.

Authors' affiliations

Zahedah Dadoo, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of the Witwatersrand and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Johannesburg

D E Ballot, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of the Witwatersrand and Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital, Johannesburg

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Cite this article

South African Journal of Child Health 2016;10(1):79-82. DOI:10.7196/SAJCH.2016.v10i1.1099

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-12-01
Date published: 2016-03-29

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