Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Retinopathy of Prematurity, Important Focus for Military Eye Doctors

Image of Health personnel conducting a morning assessment on an infant. Robyn Berryman, a neonatal nurse practitioner assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), conducts a morning assessment on an infant in the hospital's NICU in September 2020. NMCSD's NICU specializes in the care of ill or premature newborn infants (Photo by: Navy Seaman Luke Cunningham, Naval Medical Center San Diego).

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | Centers of Excellence

Military medical professionals are often tasked with helping people who are in the physical prime of their lives: Otherwise fit young women and men who become injured or ill. But a small group of doctors and nurses tend to the most physically vulnerable of military family members - premature babies.

Among that group of infants, those born weighing under three pounds are at a significant risk of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a potentially blinding disease. Those at risk for ROP must be evaluated from a certain point in their development until the determined danger period passes.

ROP is an eye disorder caused by abnormal blood vessel growth in the light-sensitive part of the eyes (retina) of premature infants born before the 31st week of pregnancy (seven to 10 weeks early). In most cases, ROP resolves itself without treatment. But advanced ROP can cause permanent vision problems such as detached retinas, leading to blindness.

"We would call retinopathy of prematurity a high-risk, low-volume ophthalmology disease," said Navy Capt. (Dr.) Lisa Peterson, a pediatrician at the Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) in California and neonatology specialty advisor for the Navy's Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. "Generally, we're looking at babies born before 30 or 31 weeks of gestation. That population nationwide is about 1.4 or 1.5 percent of all births. ROP is definitely low-volume, but because of the severity, without adequate tracking and detection and treatment, it could lead to blindness."

Military Health System pediatric ophthalmologists and vision care service coordinators are increasingly paying attention to the risk of ROP because of a marked decrease in troops with eye injuries compared to the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But perhaps there's an even more practical reason to stay on top of diseases affecting premature babies, or preemies.

"Soldiers are having babies left and right," said Army Col. (Dr.) Frank Valentin, pediatric ophthalmology chief at the Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

Numbers have gone down since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but in 2018, there were 36,000 births across the Department of Defense (DOD), he said. In 2017, there were 39,000; 43,000 in 2016; and 45,000 in 2015.

"If we take care of our military families with the highest quality of care, with excellence, our warriors can focus on the mission and worry less for their loved ones back home," he said.

Peterson agrees.

"For families, it's not simple," she said. "They not only have the stress of a new baby at home, but also a new baby who has multiple chronic conditions from being in the NICU and being extremely premature, and sometimes navigating a health system. And all of that can be difficult on its own."

But within MHS treatment facilities, the process works well, she added.

Parents holding their newborn child
Parents embrace their child at Naval Medical Center San Diego's (NMCSD) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in December 2020 (Navy Seaman Luke Cunningham, Naval Medical Center San Diego).

"As a multi-disciplinary process, it's really due to the dedicated professionals going above and beyond, tracking these patients, and ensuring that they meet their follow-up (appointment) every time," said Peterson. "Military hospitals are really in close proximity. Most of the time, the inpatient and outpatient locations are on the same base.

That, she added, leads to a continuity of care that makes it more seamless to determine if there is any cause to follow up. "In addition, we have social workers and discharge planners who stay on top of the appointments, and our follow-up clinics are in close contact with the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit)."

When a patient sees a civilian doctor for outpatient treatment, or when a family moves across the country after just one follow-up visit, for example, continuity of care can be lost. Missing even one appointment for a baby at risk of ROP can lead to a heartbreaking outcome.

About 14,000 of the approximately 3.9 million babies born each year are affected by ROP, Valentin said, and 90 percent of those have a mild form of the condition and get better on their own. But about 1,000 to 1,500 develop severe ROP, and some 400 to 600 of those go legally blind.

The MHS is transitioning to MHS GENESIS, a new, modern electronic health record. As part of the consolidation process, a registry for ROP patients is in process.

"With the Defense Health Agency's Vision Center of Excellence and the vision care service coordinators, we're looking at coordinating care not just within the military system, but of all military beneficiaries and the medical care provided both by military hospitals as well as civilian hospitals," she said. "A registry that would include all of the beneficiaries (and) ID them based on risk. It's in the development stage, but we would use that data to ensure they are meeting the outpatient follow-up requirements."

She explained the registry would track ROP appointments and identify if an appointment is missed to ensure a follow-up appointment.

"Within (DHA), the clinical communities are already doing the programming for the registries," she said. "A couple have already kicked off."

It will be a matter of weeks before initial programming is done for all the registries, she said.

You also may be interested in...

Be Prepared with Back-to-School Immunizations

Video
7/28/2022
Be Prepared with Back-to-School Immunizations

Air Force Surgeon General Miller encourages parents to get their kids immunized before heading back to school in the fall.

Recommended Content:

Medical and Dental Preventive Care Fitness | Children's Health | Immunizations | Back to School Immunizations

5 Health Care Checkups for Your Child Before School Starts

Article Around MHS
7/28/2022
Boy with backpack shopping

Plan your Child's Check-Up before school starts.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Immunizations | Back to School Immunizations

Maxwell Clinic Transitioning to the MHS GENESIS System Sept. 24

Article Around MHS
7/26/2022
MHS Genesis infographic

The 42nd Medical Group will begin transitioning to MHS GENESIS Sept. 24 patients can expect to see an increase in wait times and a reduction in available appointments for approximately 120 days as healthcare teams adapt their office and clinic practices to new, standardized workflows.

Recommended Content:

Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | MHS GENESIS

Interview with the SEAC: TBI from a Joint Perspective

Video
7/18/2022
Interview with the SEAC: TBI from a Joint Perspective

In this episode of Picking Your Brain, Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence Branch Chief Capt. Scott Cota and clinical moderator Amanda Gano interview the Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (SEAC), Ramón Colón-López. The discussion covers the health impacts of TBI and blast-related concussion stemming from the demands of combat and training. The SEAC also addresses the importance of maintaining medical readiness through education and military leadership. Listen to more Picking Your Brain episodes at www.health.mil/TBIPodcasts, on DVIDS, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury Center of Excellence | TBICoE Podcasts | TBI Provider Resources | Patient and Family Resources | TBI Educators | Centers of Excellence | Traumatic Brain Injury

MHS Virtual Education Center Empowers Patients to Improve Outcomes

Article
7/14/2022
Army Col. (Dr.) Maria Molina provides insight on the latest MHS digital resource for patients.

The Defense Health Agency is developing the Virtual Education Center: A web-based library and communications platform that enables providers and patients to access, store, and use vetted MHS education resources more easily than ever before.

Recommended Content:

Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | Ready Reliable Care | Health Care Technology | MHS GENESIS

MHS GENESIS Live at WBAMC

Article Around MHS
7/7/2022
Military personnel at ribbon cutting ceremony

The Military Health System's new electronic health record, MHS GENESIS, was introduced on June 11 at William Beaumont Army Medical Center and El Paso Market.

Recommended Content:

Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | MHS GENESIS

Developmental Pediatrics Team Visits Vandenberg

Article Around MHS
7/1/2022
Military personnel conducting a class.

The Air Force Developmental Behavioral Family Readiness team hosted a workshop to introduce information on different programs that assist parents with special needs children. This workshop serves military families by directing and connecting them with services to help with their children’s developmental and behavioral needs.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health

How MHS GENESIS will become essential to patients' health journey

Article
6/21/2022
Dr. Robert Marshall, program director of the Department of Defense Clinical Informatics Fellowship at Madigan Army Medical Center.

Ensuring proper training of both providers and patients is essential for the successful integration and sustainment of MHS GENESIS into MHS care.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness & Combat Support | Health Care Technology | MHS GENESIS Toolkit | Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | MHS GENESIS

Tips and Support for Soon-to-be Military Dads

Article
6/17/2022
A child holding his dad's face

For Father’s Day, here are some tips to support our military dads.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health

Protecting Your Hearing and Vision is a Personal Readiness Mission

Article
6/14/2022
Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Dominique Campbell drives a forklift on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) during a vertical replenishment. She is wearing proper hearing and vision protection.

Experts from the Centers of Excellence help advance research to diagnose and treat diseases and conditions that affect military personnel and their families.

Recommended Content:

Centers of Excellence

Learning How to 'Stop the Bleed'

Article
5/27/2022
Training students how to pack an injury

In San Antonio, there is an ongoing effort to train as many people as possible on how to control bleeding to increase the chances for victim survival.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Emergency Preparedness and Response | Civil Support | Education & Training

TRICARE Answers Your Questions About Baby Formula

Article
5/23/2022
Baby smiling

The shortage of baby formula is having an impact on millions of families including military families. Here are a few questions and answers about the shortage to help.

Recommended Content:

About TRICARE | Children's Health

Baby Smiling

Photo
5/23/2022
Baby Smiling

The shortage of baby formula is having an impact on millions of families, including military families. Learn what TRICARE does and doesn't cover.

Recommended Content:

About TRICARE | Children's Health

Child Vision Awareness Month

Infographic
5/19/2022
Child Vision Awareness Month

June is #ChildrensVisionAwarenessMonth! If you’ve noticed your child is squinting at the SmartBoard in classes or holding their books inches from their face at home, it might be time to take them to an optometrist. Check out @TRICARE for what services might be covered: https://t.co/5M2eOFraNc

Recommended Content:

June | Children's Health

Patients at Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany can take steps now to prepare for MHS GENESIS ‘Go Live’

Article Around MHS
5/17/2022
MHS GENESIS log on

Naval Branch Health Clinic (NBHC) Albany will transition to the Military Health System’s new electronic health record, MHS GENESIS, on June 11

Recommended Content:

Electronic Health Record: MHS GENESIS | MHS GENESIS
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 12
Refine your search
Last Updated: June 23, 2021

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.