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Retinopathy of prematurity in Germany over 13 years: incidences, treatment preferences and effects of national guideline changes

Abstract

Objective Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) is a leading yet avoidable cause of childhood blindness. Screening for ROP is highly effective in preventing blindness secondary to ROP. We provide epidemiological data on ROP screening and treatment in Germany since 2010 and evaluate the effects of recently adopted as well as potential future screening guideline adaptations.

Methods Data sets of the German Quality Assurance Procedure in Neonatology, the ROP screening programme of two German university hospitals, and the German section of the EU-ROP Registry were analysed.

Results Over the 13-year period from 2010 to 2022, 141 550 infants received ROP screening in Germany. Mean annual incidences of ROP were 3.5% (±0.2%) in premature infants and 19.6% (±2.3%) in screened infants. Of screened infants, 2.0% (±0.3%) received treatment for ROP. Treatment preferences shifted from laser coagulation (46.2% in 2015) to anti-vascular endothelial growth factor therapy (83.7% in 2022). A revision of national screening criteria in 2020 with a reduction of the gestational age limit from <32 to <31 weeks resulted in a decrease of the annual number of infants requiring screening by 25.8% (p<0.001). Infants with a birth weight ≥1500 g accounted for 35.2% of the screening population but only for 0.4% of ROP stage 3–5 cases.

Conclusions Collection of epidemiological data on ROP in national and international registries enables the continuous surveillance and adaptation of ROP screening and treatment criteria. In Germany, infants with a birth weight ≥1500 g have a very low risk of developing treatment-requiring ROP, supporting an upper birth weight limit for ROP screening.

  • neonatology
  • ophthalmology

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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