When your baby is born too early, he or she may experience health complications that can affect various organs and systems. One such complication, retinopathy of prematurity, is associated with infants born before 31 weeks gestation and can lead to permanent blindness.

Doctors can prevent ROP even in very premature infants by following the appropriate screening and treatment protocols.

Understanding retinopathy of prematurity

According to the National Eye Institute, of the 28,000 infants who are born weighing less than 2.75 pounds each year, approximately half will develop ROP. This condition occurs because of uncontrolled blood vessel growth in the eye. These vessels may bleed or leak fluid that can damage the retina, causing blindness.

Blood vessels begin developing in the fetus around 16 weeks gestation, but do not fully develop until the 8th month of pregnancy. When babies are born early, it can disrupt this growth, which may trigger ROP. While many cases are quite minor and resolve independently, other cases require immediate medical treatment to prevent blindness.

The role of medical negligence

When physicians detect ROP right away, they can initiate treatment to halt the unchecked blood vessel growth, thus limiting complications. When the medical team for a premature newborn does not perform an ROP screening, however, the condition may worsen as it goes undiagnosed. Because this disease is so treatable, failure to monitor for ROP in an infant who is born to early represents a failure to adhere to the best practices of quality care and medical treatment.

If your baby was born prematurely and suffered complications of ROP, such as blindness, retinal detachment, amblyopia or strabismus, medical failure to diagnose and properly treat this condition could be to blame. Ohio courts allow medical malpractice settlements of up to three times your economic damages such as medical bills or $250,000, whichever is greater. However, you must file a lawsuit within a year of the discovery of the condition to have a valid claim.