Oklahoma study to focus on detecting infants' eye disease

BY SONYA COLBERG Modified: October 13, 2010 at 12:36 am •  Published: October 13, 2010
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When Tara Harp looks down at her son sleeping in her arms and waits for that baby's twin to go home from the neonatal intensive care unit, she knows they beat the odds.

The boys were born 11 weeks prematurely and faced health issues that had to be closely watched as they grew in the incubator. Doctors discovered that Sam, who was smaller and less healthy than his brother Elijah, had become part of an unfortunate majority.

Sam is among the 50 to 60 percent of preemies who develop a severe eye disease, retinopathy of prematurity. He required laser surgery almost immediately to keep him from going blind.

"I'm just very grateful for the neonatology specialty and what they can do for these babies," Harp said. "I'm just thankful for all the research."

Aside from the heartache of having a blind baby, each of the 500 or 600 U.S. babies who go blind cost society about $1 million over its lifetime, Dr. R. Michael Siatkowski, researcher and ophthalmologist at Dean McGee Eye Institute, said during a news conference Tuesday at the OU Medicine Conference Center.

Now, Oklahoma is focusing on a new clinical study to help stop the infant eye disease before it is too late.



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