Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) appears to be a multifactorial disease, the prevention of which is probably impossible even with the most accurate methods of blood-gas monitoring and oxygen restrictions. The oxidative processes and consequent formation of free radicals are probably influenced by the availability of various antioxidants in the immature retina. Bilirubin, the end product of haem catabolism, has recently been regarded as a potential physiological antioxidant. In order to test the suggestion as to the possible effect of bilirubin in reducing the incidence of ROP a retrospective study was undertaken of the medical records of 151 neonates born between 1984 to 1988 who weighed less than 1500 g. Of these, 78 had various degrees of ROP, whereas 73 had no ROP and served as a control group. The daily mean bilirubin values were analysed in accordance with gestational age and birth weight as well as the severity of ROP, and the results were compared with those obtained for the control group. The results showed no correlation between bilirubin levels and severity of ROP in all subgroups of gestational age and birth weight. These findings indicate that there is no apparent protective effect of bilirubin on the development of ROP.
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