Pune: India records the highest number of births in the world and out of the 3.5 lakh babies born every year, around 1 lakh need to be screened for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). In the absence of screening facilities, particularly in smaller cities and towns, these children are likely to turn blind, doctors warned.
The doctors were speaking on World Prematurity Day, which is marked on November 17. Dr Sucheta Kulkarni, Medical Director at PBMA’s HV Desai Hospital said there are only 800 specialists working in this field, while according to recent estimates, around 3,000 preterm children are turning blind for life in India.
"The number is likely to rise. A major problem in improving screening coverage is shortage of ROP specialists. We are conducting awareness programmes, training of paramedical staff for use of telemedicine and use of technology for ROP screening," said Kulkarni.
Speaking to Sakal Times, Dr Devendra Venkat, eye specialist from Ruby Hall Clinic, said, "It is risky to take an infant for surgery as the child is already premature. However, this can be avoided by early detection. ROP is entirely curable and many doctors and private facilities do it for free."
Dr Jeevan Ladi, former president of the Maharashtra Ophthalmological Society, elaborated on the use of technology for bridging the gap between rural babies and urban specialists.
"Digital wide field cameras for ROP screening are used in some centres. The advantage is that paramedical staff can use them. So a baby admitted in a rural hospital can get screened for ROP. The images captured on the camera can be sent to urban centres for diagnosis," he said.