Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is an important cause of blindness among extremely low birth weight infants (birth weight ≤ 1000 g). In the 1990s, greater numbers of extremely low birth weight infants will survive, in part due to routine surfactant replacement therapy for neonatal respiratory distress syndrome. Few studies have evaluated the effect of surfactant therapy on the incidence and severity of ROP. The authors performed a review of the records of extremely low birth weight infants born in two 2-year intervals before and after initiation of a clinical protocol in which all extremely low birth weight infants received prophylactic treatment with calf lung surfactant extract (Infasurf). Surfactant therapy was associated with a significant improvement in survival to discharge (79% [88 of 112] versus 63% [82 of 131]; P = 0.01). Compared with control infants, surfactant-treated infants had a significantly lower incidence of any stage of ROP (64% [56 of 87] versus 85% [68 of 80]; P < 0.004). The incidence of threshold (Stage 3 plus or greater) ROP was substantially reduced (3.4% [3 of 87] versus 10% [8 of 80]; P = 0.16)). The surfactant-associated reduction in ROP was independent of birth weight, gestational age, race, or sex. These data suggest that Infasurf may substantially reduce the incidence and severity of ROP in the extremely low birth weight population.
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