a close-up of a baby's feet close together and poking out of a white blanket

Researchers at Moorfields have conducted a first of its kind study into retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a serious eye condition that affects very premature babies.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a condition that occurs in babies that are born very prematurely, where abnormal blood vessels develop at the back of the eye. It is a serious condition and can lead to a detached retina and blindness.

Dr Annegret Dahlmann-Noor and Miss Gill Adams are paediatric ophthalmologists at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. They have led a nationwide study of infants who need treatment for ROP.

What is retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)?

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ROP is a potentially blinding condition that affects premature babies and is one of the most common causes of visual loss in childhood.

Infants with ROP are considered to be at higher risk for developing certain eye problems later in life, such as retinal detachment, myopia (nearsightedness), strabismus (crossed eyes), amblyopia (lazy eye), and glaucoma.

Context and objectives

In the UK, all babies at risk of ROP have screening eye examinations from the age of 4 to 5 weeks after birth. 

The aim of this study was to find out how many babies in the UK develop the most severe forms of ROP and need treatment to prevent the retina from detaching. 

The group also wanted to understand current treatment patterns in the UK. 

The study was coordinated through the British Ophthalmic Surveillance Unit. All paediatric ophthalmologists in the UK were invited to take part by providing information on infants treated for ROP during the 12 months of the study.


The first findings from this important work were published in BMJ Open (an open access journal published by the British Medical Journal) and the journal Eye, which publishes the latest clinical and laboratory based research across visual science.

The results show that around twice as many babies are being treated for ROP than previously thought.

It also showed that treatment patterns are different - the most commonly used treatment (90.5 per cent) is laser, followed by anti-VEGF antibody injections (9.5 per cent). 

This study is now being used as a reference point for planners of eye services for premature babies in the UK. It has also prompted the Royal College of Ophthalmologists to review the current screening guidelines from the condition.

In acknowledging the funding which supported this work, the team said:

We are very grateful to the supporters of Moorfields Eye Charity, without whose donations it would not have been possible to carry out this study.