(HealthDay News) — Low-birth-weight premature infants with severe retinopathy are nearly three times more likely to have non-visual disabilities than infants without retinopathy, according to a research letter published in the February 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Barbara Schmidt, MD, from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, and colleagues assessed the prevalence of non-visual impairments among 1,582 premature infants with birth weights between 500g and 1250g, where 95 had severe retinopathy.

At five years follow-up, the researchers found that children with severe retinopathy were at significantly higher risk of at least one non-visual disability (39.5 versus 15.8%; adjusted odds ratio, 2.89). Children with severe retinopathy were also significantly more likely to have more than one non-visual disability (14.9 versus 2.4%; adjusted odds ratio, 6.98). Severe retinopathy was also associated with a three- to four-fold higher risk of motor impairment, cognitive impairment, and severe hearing loss.

“In this cohort of very low-birth-weight infants, we observed a strong association between the development of severe retinopathy of prematurity and the presence of one or more non-visual disabilities at age 5 years,” Schmidt and colleagues conclude.

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