Thanks to the generosity of the Emory Crawford Long Hospital Auxiliary, the hospital's Special Care Nursery now owns a dedicated, state-of -the-art laser that will be used to treat premature babies born with an eye condition that may cause blindness.
The president of the Auxiliary, Marsha Andrews, recently presented a $25,000 check to Ann Critz, MD, Chief of Neonatal Services at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, and Amy Hutchinson, MD, a pediatric ophthalmologist with The Emory Clinic, for the purchase of the laser. The laser will be used in the special care nurseries at both Emory Crawford Long Hospital and Grady Memorial Hospital
Retinopathy of Prematurity, commonly called ROP, is an eye condition that may develop in tiny premature babies. The condition can lead to blindness when blood vessels in the back of the eye grow abnormally, resulting in scarring and pulling away of the retina from the back of the eye. Laser treatment of babies with ROP can help stop the progression of the condition and prevent retinal detachment, which can save a baby's sight.
Across the nation about half of all babies born less than two-and-a-half pounds will develop some Retinopathy changes. Of those, about 1,000 to 1,500 babies per year will develop severe ROP, and 400-600 babies per year will go blind.
According to Dr. Critz, the special care nursery at Emory Crawford Long Hospital, which participated in a research project studying the treatment of ROP by laser, already has a lower rate of severe Retinopathy than the nation in general and than other hospitals in Georgia.
To treat severe ROP, a laser is aimed though the pupil and lens of the eye on to the area of the retina just beyond where the abnormal blood vessels are found. Treating this area helps stop the abnormal blood vessel growth. "An advantage of the new laser over previous models is that it requires less time for the infant to be under anesthesia, which is much better for these tiny babies who frequently have other health problems," explains Dr. Critz.
The wavelength of the new laser also makes it much less likely to cause changes in the lens which can lead to the development of a cataract. While cataract formation is a rare complication of laser treatment, this new laser will further decrease the chances of this complication.
"Thanks to the involvement of the Emory University ophthalmology section, we have been extremely successful in treating these babies," she says. "This new, dedicated laser will make these treatments more accessible and easier on the babies and their parents. We are very grateful to the Auxiliary for their commitment to improving the lives of premature infants."