RESEARCH SUPPORT, U.S. GOV'T, P.H.S.
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Surfactant prophylaxis and retinopathy of prematurity.

OBJECTIVE: The use of exogenous surfactant has led to a decrease in mortality of low-birth-weight infants. In some instances, use of this drug has also led to a reduction in neonatal morbidity, such as respiratory distress syndrome. This study was undertaken to determine whether prophylactic surfactant therapy has an effect on the incidence and severity of retinopathy of prematurity.

DESIGN: The authors reviewed the findings of sequential prospective ophthalmologic examinations performed in two neonatal intensive care units that participated in randomized trials of prophylactic exogenous mammalian surfactant.

PATIENTS: There were 43 patients in the control group (no prophylactic surfactant) and 43 patients in the prophylactic surfactant group. These groups did not differ on the basis of birth weight, gestational age, race, or gender.

RESULTS: The incidence and severity of retinopathy of prematurity did not vary between the control and surfactant-treated infants. Only birth weight appeared to be significantly related to the incidence and severity of retinopathy of prematurity.

CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that the widespread use of prophylactic surfactant therapy will not change the incidence of retinopathy of prematurity in extremely low-birth-weight infants. However, the absolute number of affected patients will likely increase because of the decrease in mortality of extremely low-birth-weight patients, the patients most at risk for retinopathy of prematurity.

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