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July 25, 2023

NHS: Premature Babies to Receive Blindness Preventing Drug

It will be the first time on the NHS in England that premature babies will be given injections of ranibizumab. This drug is able to stop scarring caused by unusual blood-vessel growth in the back of the eye.

This drug will serve as a better option to laser therapy, which is not always safe for little babies who run the risk of Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)- a sight problem which affects the retina of the eye.

With the right treatment, ROP can be prevented. Screening is usually carried out on all premature and low-birth-weight babies. Research has shown that one in 20 babies may need treatment to prevent damage to the retina which can lead to blindness.

The injection- Ranibizumab works by blocking the activity of vascular endothelial growth factors, which encourage the growth of new blood vessels.

The retina is the part of the eye which detects light and sends messages to the brain to enable sight and when there are very high levels of the vascular endothelial growth factor, abnormal vessels can be formed which can turn into scar tissue in the retina.

Millie Swan, from Surrey, was born prematurely at 23 weeks and developed retinopathy of prematurity. Her condition became so bad at three months that she needed an urgent sight saving treatment. However, when doctors administered the sedative in preparation for the laser treatment, she reacted badly to it and so they couldn’t go through with the procedure.

Natalie, Millie’s Mother said that that was the point the family thought she would end up blind in her left eye but they were lucky to be given the new treatment- an injection into the eye.

Here is what she said; "I stayed with her for the procedure. Millie needed to have her eye clamped open but I was used to seeing that happen for her assessments. And the treatment was finished in a couple of minutes. That was much quicker than the laser surgery would have been. After the procedure, Millie spent a couple of days recovering.”

"Millie will be three years old in July and her eyesight is now normal and she enjoys looking at the pictures in her books and aeroplanes in the sky.”

She expressed her happiness at being lucky to have Millie get the treatment and avoid losing her sight in that eye.

Experts now believe that around 20 babies a year in England might need the drug treatment rather than laser therapy.

NHS chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: "The impacts of vision loss can be absolutely devastating, particularly for children and young people, so it's fantastic that this treatment will now give families across the country another life-changing option to help save their child's precious sight.”

"The national rollout of this lifeline treatment for babies who are too poorly to undergo laser therapy is a vital step forward in preventing avoidable vision loss."

Peter Bradley, from the premature baby charity Bliss, said it is brilliant that the sight-saving treatment is being administered in the entire country to treat the condition which affects many premature-born children.

Seeking Legal Redress for Birth Injuries

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