New Jersey Retinopathy of Prematurity Lawyer
Representing Victims of ROP and Birth Related Malpractice in NJ
Premature babies are at risk for so many conditions potentially harmful to all of the human systems. One such disease is Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), which affects the eyes, when defectively formed blood vessels in the eye potentially damage a baby’s vision. It is among the major causes of blindness in children. While there is a possibility that some cases of ROP will resolve without damaging the eyes, timely diagnosis and treatment prevent potentially serious vision damage from occurring. In fact, premature babies with ROP have greater chances of developing nearsightedness, crossed eyes, lazy eye, and glaucoma later in life if not controlled early. If your child’s doctor failed to diagnose or refer you to a neonatal ophthalmologist for Retinopathy of Prematurity diagnostic screening, failed to implement timely treatment for the condition, or was otherwise negligent, it is vital to further investigate your potential for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
As the parent of a child with ROP, you are likely well-aware of the catastrophic effects caused by your child’s blindness or vision problems. In addition to the personal challenges for your child, the costs of treatment and ongoing medical needs can place yet another burden on your family. This is why it is so important to understand your legal options for pursuing compensation if your child’s Retinopathy of Prematurity case involved medical negligence. Whether the early diagnosis or lack of care concerning your child’s ROP caused harm, our experienced New Jersey birth injury and medical malpractice attorneys can assist you with seeking a financial recovery. With strong and skillful advocacy, your child may be provided with the financial resources they’ll need to live their best life despite vision problems. Contact us at (866)-708-8617 to speak with an attorney today. Our team provides 100 percent free consultations.
How Retinopathy of Prematurity Occurs
Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a condition marked by defective eye blood vessels. The retinal blood vessels are located inside of the eye, where light is translated into vision and communicated to the brain. Prematurity can lead to defective development of these blood vessels, potentially resulting in a detached retina and blindness when the deformed blood vessels scar and move the retina. A baby’s eyes develop around 16 weeks, completing development in the last 12 weeks of pregnancy. As such, retinopathy of prematurity generally occurs in premature babies with low birth weights. Babies delivered before 31 weeks are most at risk for blood vessels not developing completely.
Among the 3.9 million babies born annually, 14,000 to 16,000 have ROP, although the majority suffer from a mild version of the condition. Less than one percent of these children require treatment to prevent significant vision loss. However, approximately 1,500 newborns develop severe enough Retinopathy of Prematurity to warrant medical care each year and among those, 400 to 600 ultimately become legally blind.
Risk Factors for ROP
The medical community has yet to identify a singular cause of retinopathy of prematurity, but there are known risk factors for the condition that doctors and healthcare providers should be aware of. Risk factors for retinopathy of prematurity include:
- Low birth weight (infants weighing 2¾ pounds or less)
- Extreme prematurity
- Blood transfusions
- Respiratory difficulties during birth
- Use of oxygen (if not administered and monitored properly)
- Overall health
In addition, slow growth often indicates probable ROP. Since the condition lies deep inside the eye, symptoms are not visible, except for severe cases, which manifest in erratic eye movements and white pupils. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ guidelines recommend premature infant screening, which is how many ROP cases are confirmed.
Retinopathy of Prematurity Stages
In diagnosis and treatment, doctors characterize ROP by zone, stage or plus disease. The zone is the disease’s location, which can be the center, middle or sides of the retina. Plus disease refers to severely damaged blood vessels, and stages are descriptions of the disease’s advancement. There are five degrees or stages of ROP:
- Stage 1: mild vessel defects
- Stage 2: moderate vessel defects
- Stage 3: severe vessel defects
- Stage 4: partially detached retina
- Stage 5: completely detached retina.
The more advanced stages require more invasive treatment, depending on the severity and location of the damaged blood vessels.
ROP Diagnosis and Treatment
An ophthalmologist specializing in infant diseases diagnoses the condition by pupil dilation or digital photography and an eye exam, especially for preemies born before 31 weeks. Eye surgery is recommended for infants whose retina may detach. Laser ablation or cryotherapy to burn off the abnormal part of the retina are the most common treatments for infants with severe ROP.
Another ROP treatment involves injecting medication into the eye to disrupt the production of abnormal blood vessels, though this method is still somewhat experimental. Other invasive treatments for advanced ROP include wrapping a silicon band or scleral buckle tightly around the eye to keep the leakages from floating the scar tissue around the retina and vitrectomy. This involves substituting the leaking liquid with saline solution, then peeling back the retina to cut away the scar tissue, allowing the retina to lay properly against the eye. In some serious cases, however, ROP worsens and vision loss follows.
Preventing Retinopathy of Prematurity
When it comes to retinopathy of prematurity prevention, time becomes a significant factor. Critical prevention involves an eye exam while in the hospital and/or after hospital discharge, since treatment delays increase the risk of blindness and other eye diseases. When a baby is born premature, doctors should be aware of the risk for ROP and related risk factors, and quickly react by further investigating or referring you to an ophthalmologist with experience handling ROP.
But the best prevention is minimizing the risk of premature birth. Some measures for prolonging pregnancy when prematurity is a risk include giving patients progesterone to keep multiple births in place, or cervical cerclage (stitch) to delay labor starting. Prescribing bedrest for pregnancy complications like diabetes and hypertension, and antibiotics to prevent infection in those women whose waters break early, are common treatments against premature delivery. So, the best preventative medicine is early detection of prematurity risks and then prolonging the pregnancy.
Awareness of a pregnant woman’s history of high blood pressure, premature birth, stress, miscarriage, diabetes, abortions, or multiple births should place obstetricians on alert for a possible preterm birth and complications such as retinopathy of prematurity. Other causes for prematurity include babies born within seven to nine months of another pregnancy or through fertility treatment, as well as mother’s tobacco and substance abuse. Women with infections, vaginal bleeding, blood clotting issues, or problems with their cervix, uterus, or placenta are also more prone to premature births. All of these considerations should remain at the forefront of your doctor’s mind throughout pregnancy and during delivery.
Your obstetrician and pediatrician play critical roles in preventing harm to you and your child. If your physician failed to make timely decisions and take action to delay your preterm labor and delivery, or refer your infant to a qualified doctor to examine, diagnose, and treat your newborn’s eyes affected by retinopathy of prematurity, consult a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney on our team today.
Contact Skilled New Jersey ROP Negligence Lawyers to Discuss Your Child’s Case
If your baby’s ROP may have been preventable or they suffered injuries due to delayed diagnosis or inadequate treatment in New Jersey, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Call (866)-708-8617 to discuss your child’s ROP case and learn more about what you can do to cover your baby’s future medical needs. Our skilled birth malpractice attorneys can assist you with seeking recovery of your and your child’s monetary losses and undue pain and suffering caused by medical professionals’ negligence. We are available anytime to provide you with a free consultation.