CHOP-led Retinopathy of Prematurity Research Highlighted at Recent Senate Hearing

Published on in CHOP News

Graham E. Quinn, MD, MSCE, an ophthalmologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, has been spearheading an innovative telemedicine project that could help prevent premature newborns from going blind. At a recent U.S. Senate hearing, Francis Collins, MD, PhD, director of the National Institutes of Health, cited this project when discussing the promise held by mobile health (mHealth) applications.

Seen most often in preterm infants, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a condition in which growth of abnormal blood vessels in the eye can damage or even detach the retina, leading to severe vision loss and in some cases blindness.

Early detection is key in infants with severe ROP. Unfortunately, ophthalmologists experienced in detecting ROP are not always on hand when a preterm baby is born.

Dr. Quinn’s project offers a potential solution to this problem. He has been leading a collaboration among 13 North American clinical centers with neonatal intensive care. The e-ROP Cooperative Group has been investigating the feasibility of a remote telemedicine system to detect ROP in newborns.

Last year, Dr. Quinn and his team published the study results in JAMA Ophthalmology. They showed that trained non-physician evaluators who studied retinal images transmitted to computer screens at a remote reading center were able to identify infants who required specialized evaluation for ROP by an ophthalmologist.

“This study provides validation for a telemedicine approach to ROP screening and could help prevent thousands of premature babies from going blind,” said Dr. Quinn when the study was published. “Telemedicine potentially gives every hospital access to excellent ROP screening.”

Dr. Quinn and his team have published a series of ROP-related papers, including two more in JAMA Ophthalmology. In March he co-authored a study on the development of a prediction model of ROP, and in June contributed to another on a centralized system for grading digital images of ROP.

Read more about these recent e-ROP research efforts.