Emory Report
June 20, 2005
Volume 58, Number 33


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June 20, 2005
$25K donation pays for neonatal laser care at Crawford Long, Grady

BY Cindy Sanders

Thanks to the generosity of the Crawford Long Hospital Auxiliary, the hospital’s special care nursery now owns a dedicated, state-of-the-art laser that will be used to treat premature babies born with an eye condition that may cause blindness.

Auxiliary President Marsha Andrews recently presented a $25,000 check to Ann Critz, chief of neonatal services at Crawford Long, and Amy Hutchinson, a pediatric ophthalmologist with the Emory Clinic, for the purchase of the laser. The laser will be used in the special care nurseries at both Crawford Long and Grady hospitals.

Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) is an eye condition that may develop in tiny premature babies. The condition can lead to blindness when blood vessels in the back of the eye grow abnormally, resulting in scarring and pulling away of the retina from the back of the eye. Laser treatment of babies with ROP can help stop the progression of the condition and prevent retinal detachment, potentially saving a baby’s sight.

Across the nation about half of all babies born less than 2 1/2 pounds will develop some retinopathy changes. Of those, about 1,000–1,500 babies per year will develop severe ROP, and 400–600 will go blind.

To treat severe ROP, a laser is aimed though the pupil and lens of the eye onto the area of the retina just beyond where the abnormal blood vessels are found. Treating this area helps stop the abnormal blood vessel growth.

“An advantage of the new laser over previous models is that it requires less time for the infant to be under anesthesia, which is much better for these tiny babies who frequently have other health problems,” Critz said.

She added that Crawford Long’s special care nursery, which participated in a research project studying the treatment of ROP by laser, already has a lower rate of severe retinopathy than the nation in general
and than other hospitals in Georgia.

The wavelength of the new laser also makes it much less likely to cause changes in the lens, which can lead to the development of a cataract. While cataract formation is a rare complication of laser treatment, this new laser will further decrease its likelihood.

“Thanks to the involvement of the Emory ophthalmology section, we have been extremely successful in treating these babies,” Critz said. “This new, dedicated laser will make these treatments more accessible and easier on the babies and their parents. We are very grateful to the auxiliary for their commitment to improving the lives of premature infants.”