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Emmetropisation following preterm birth
  1. K J Saunders1,
  2. D L McCulloch2,
  3. A J Shepherd3,
  4. A G Wilkinson4
  1. 1School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland, BT52 1SA, UK
  2. 2Department of Vision Sciences, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  3. 3Department of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Stirling, Stirling, Scotland, UK
  4. 4Department of Radiology, The Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  1. Correspondence to: Dr K J Saunders, School of Biomedical Science, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland, BT52 1SA; kj.saunders{at}


Background/aims: Even in the absence of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), premature birth signals increased risk for abnormal refractive development. The present study examined the relation between clinical risk factors and refractive development among preterm infants without ROP.

Methods: Cycloplegic refraction was measured at birth, term, 6, 12, and 48 months corrected age in a cohort of 59 preterm infants. Detailed perinatal history and cranial ultrasound data were collected. 40 full term (plus or minus 2 weeks) subjects were tested at birth, 6, and 12 months old.

Results: Myopia and anisometropia were associated with prematurity (p<0.05). More variation in astigmatic axis was found among preterm infants (p<0.05) and a trend for more astigmatism (p<0.1). Emmetropisation occurred in the preterm infants so that at term age they did not differ from the fullterm group in astigmatism or anisometropia. However, preterm infants remained more myopic (less hyperopic) than the fullterm group at term (p<0.05) and those infants born <1500 g remained more anisometropic than their peers until 6 months (p<0.05). Infants with abnormal cranial ultrasound were at risk for higher hyperopia (p<0.05). Other clinical risk factors were not associated with differences in refractive development. At 4 years of age 19% of the preterm group had clinically significant refractive errors.

Conclusion: Preterm infants without ROP had high rates of refractive error. The early emmetropisation process differed from that of the fullterm group but neither clinical risk factors nor measures of early refractive error were predictive of refractive outcome at 4 years.

  • prematurity
  • refraction
  • emmetropisation
  • infants

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