Retinopathy of prematurity

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a serious vasoproliferative disease of the retina of premature infants born before 32 weeks of gestation and is a major cause of visual impairment and blindness. It is the result of abnormal development of immature retinal vessels that start growing at 16 weeks and are fully developed at 40 weeks of gestation. Many factors play a role in the development of ROP. Prematurity per se and oxygen are amongst the most important risk factors.

In the Netherlands ± 1500 at risk babies/year are born of which 1100 are screened by ophthalmologists throughout the country following the 2013 guideline ‘ROP-screening’. ROP is found in ± 300 infants of which 40-50 need to be treated to prevent livelong blindness. Risk factors based treatment, timely screening and detection of ROP are sight saving interventions.

The research program of the LUMC focusses on national screening and treatment programs and encompasses translational studies  on pathophysiology of ROP both, pre- and postnatally.

The ROP-team

The ROP-team at the LUMC is the creative and moving force of the national inventories on Retinopathy of Prematurity (NEDROP 1 and 2-studies). These studies, performed in 2009 and 2017, investigated the incidence of ROP, risk factors for the development of ROP, logistics and effectiveness of the current screening program and outcome and complications of treatment. Data are used for national guideline development, definition of cost-effective screening parameters and the definition of outcome parameters for quality of care. As spin off, a national website, a parent information sheet, a screening-app, educational programs including a REP and a digital consultation program has been developed.

Research Programs

Translational research programs focus on pathophysiology (ROPOXYMAP: retinal oximetry to measure oxygen saturation and vessel diameter), antenatal risk factors (PAPROP: placenta histology and angiogenesis factors as an early predictor for ROP) and development of a no-touch camera for retinal imaging. 

Themes for innovation and Societal Outreach

Our team

  • Prof Dr N.E. Schalij-Delfos, paediatric ophthalmologist, initiator / supervisor Retinopathy of Prematurity
  • Dr L.E. van der Meeren, pathologist, initiator / co-supervisor Placenta research PAPROP
  • Prof Dr E. Lopriore, neonatologist, co-supervisor Retinopathy of Prematurity
  • Drs W.B.H.J. Vehmeijer PhD student Analysis of retinal oxygenation in infants
  • Drs K. Trzcionkowska PhD student NEDROP2
  • Ms. S. El Emrani, BSc, PhD student PAPROP
  • Dr J.U.M. Termote co-supervisor, WKZ-UMC Utrecht Retinopathy of Prematurity
  • Dr A.J. van Sorge, Royal Visio, co-supervisor NEDROP
  • Dr F.T. Kerkhoff, ophthalmologist Maxima Medical Centre Veldhoven, co-supervisor NEDROP2
  • Prof E. Stefansson, University of Reykjavik, supervisor Oximetry projects
  • Dr S.H. Hardarsson, University of Reykjavik, co-supervisor Oximetry projects