[Skip to Content]
Access to paid content on this site is currently suspended due to excessive activity being detected from your IP address 54.161.128.52. Please contact the publisher to request reinstatement.
Sign In
Individual Sign In
Create an Account
Institutional Sign In
OpenAthens Shibboleth
[Skip to Content Landing]
Article
August 2005

Is Pacific Race a Retinopathy of Prematurity Risk Factor?

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Division of WAMI, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle (Mr Lang); University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Mr Blackledge); and Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Ophthalmic Associates, Anchorage, Alaska (Dr Arnold).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2005;159(8):771-773. doi:10.1001/archpedi.159.8.771
Abstract

Background  Black race affords some protection from retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), but more ROP was previously found in another darkly pigmented race, the Alaskan natives.

Design  From fall 1989 through summer 2003, all Alaskan infants with a birth weight of 1500 g or less were examined, documenting mother’s stated race, prenatal care, and neonatal intensive care unit course.

Results  Retinopathy of prematurity was classified as to predefined threshold for peripheral ablative treatment (region of avascular retina and fibrovascular ridge and vessel tortuosity) in 873 infants. Threshold ROP was more prevalent in Alaskan natives (24.9%) and Asians (15.9%) (10% overall), with no significant difference between Alaskan natives and Asians (P = .24). Alaskan native males had more threshold ROP (69%) compared with non–Alaskan native males (51%). Compared with threshold nonnatives, Alaskan native threshold infants had greater birth weights (829 ± 222 vs 704 ± 186 g), required less time on ventilation (46 ± 22 vs 70 ± 75 days), and progressed to treatment at a younger age (35.5 ± 2.2 vs 36.2 ± 2.6 weeks’ gestational age) (data are given as mean ± SD).

Conclusions  In this limited study, we find increased risk of threshold ROP in 2 northern Pacific races. Threshold Alaskan natives had similar or better prenatal and neonatal intensive care unit variables than did threshold nonnatives; however, Alaskan native males were still at a greater risk.

Retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), despite improvements in neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) care and survival, remains a major cause of childhood blindness. Race is a risk factor for threshold ROP. The Multicenter Trial of Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity found a threshold rate of 7.5% for white and 3.2% for black persons.1 Latin American persons may have more ROP than white persons.2 Although black race affords some protection from threshold ROP,36 a higher preponderance of ROP in another darkly pigmented race, the Alaskan natives, was previously noted.7 We sought to determine if this trend persisted and was predictive of ROP severity in Alaska.

METHODS

From September 1989 through July 2003, all infants with birth weights of less than 1500 g, receiving care at Alaska’s levels 3 and 2 NICUs in Anchorage, underwent serial ophthalmic and retinal examinations to diagnose and/or treat ROP by one of us (R.W.A.). This observational study received approval from the Institutional Review Board of Providence Hospital, Anchorage. We prospectively recorded birth date, mother’s stated race,8 birth weight, gestational age, severity of intraventricular hemorrhage, date of extubation, prenatal care, birth location, maternal substance use, and details related to either cryotherapy or diode laser therapy. The threshold for ROP treatment was defined by the Multicenter Trial of Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity1; the region of immature avascular retina (zone), the degree of fibrovascular ridge (stage), and the level of retinal vascular tortuosity from abnormal arteriovenous shunting (Plus disease) were carefully documented. These observations preceded recent 2003 NICU adaptation of decreased early oxygen saturation9 and the adoption of modified ROP threshold criteria.10

The variables were compared using statistical software (JMP 5.01a; SAS Institute Inc, Cary, NC) using the χ2 test, an unpaired t test, and an analysis of variance.

RESULTS

Retinopathy of prematurity was classified as to the presence or absence of threshold in 873 infants (Table 1). Threshold ROP was more common in the Alaskan native and the Asian Pacific races (χ2810,4 = 48, P<.001). There was no significant difference in threshold ROP rate between Alaskan natives and Asians (P = .24). The sex of the infant was not predictive of progression to threshold for any race, except that Alaskan native males were more likely to progress to threshold ROP (χ2197,1 = 7.8, P = .005). Comorbid prenatal and NICU variables were collated by race (Table 2). Compared with nonnatives who progressed to threshold ROP (41 of 676), Alaskan native threshold infants had greater birth weights (t = 2.9, P = .005), required less time on ventilation (F81,4 = 4.2, P = .004), and were younger at age of treatment (F89,4 = 3.7, P = .008). For the infants requiring peripheral ablative therapy for threshold ROP, 3 of 41 nonnatives and 7 of 49 Alaskan natives had adverse retinal outcomes (ie, progression to stage 4-5 ROP).

Table 1. 
Distribution of Alaskan Infants With Threshold ROP Divided by Race*
Distribution of Alaskan Infants With Threshold ROP Divided by Race*
Table 2. 
Prenatal and NICU Variables for Infants Who Progressed to Threshold ROP*
Prenatal and NICU Variables for Infants Who Progressed to Threshold ROP*
COMMENT

Race continues to convey differential risk for progression to threshold ROP. We confirmed a protective effect for blacks and an exacerbating effect for Alaskan natives. Alaskan natives who progressed to threshold ROP had similar or better prenatal and NICU variables than their nonnative counterparts, but Alaskan native males fared worse. Because of a concerted maternal transport effort, most premature Alaskan natives are born adjacent to the level 3 NICU. Since the publication of a previous report,7 we also noted an increased risk for threshold ROP in Asian infants. We wonder if pooled data from US NICUs with more Asian infants would confirm these findings.

This study is limited by relatively few infants from a single center. Staging and treating ROP in Alaska’s single level 3 NICU has primarily been done by only one clinician (R.W.A.). Our rate of progression to threshold ROP for nonnatives is similar to that from multicenter trials.10,11 This study also preceded NICU efforts to stringently avoid initial hyperoxia9 and adoption of revised threshold criteria.10

Why is race an important factor in ROP progression? The consistently increased risk of threshold ROP in Alaskan natives and this new observation of high ROP rates in our Asian infants may be related to ancestry across the Bering Land Bridge.12 As a follow-up to an initial report,7 we were not able to ascribe a dietary influence related to ω-3 fatty acids and fish. In animal models of ROP, there is a differential propensity for ROP even in different strains and different retinal pigment levels of rats.13,14 We hope that a better understanding of risk factors and genetic markers might provide an answer that would be of benefit for infants at risk for ROP worldwide.15

Back to top
Article Information

Correspondence: Robert W. Arnold, MD, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, Ophthalmic Associates, 542 W Second Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501-2242 (eyedoc@alaska.net).

Previous Presentation: This study was presented as a poster at the Third International Symposium on ROP: An Update on ROP from the Lab to the Nursery; November 13, 2003; Anaheim, Calif.

Financial Disclosure: None.

Accepted for Publication: April 7, 2005.

References
1.
Palmer  EAFlynn  JTHardy  RJ  et al. Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity Cooperative Group, Incidence and early course of retinopathy of prematurity. Ophthalmology 1991;981628- 1640
PubMedArticle
2.
Brown  BAThach  ABSong  JCMarx  JLKwun  RCFrambach  DA Retinopathy of prematurity: evaluation of risk factors. Int Ophthalmol 1998;22279- 283
PubMedArticle
3.
Tadesse  MDhanireddy  RMittal  MHiggins  RD Race, Candida sepsis, and retinopathy of prematurity. Biol Neonate 2002;8186- 90
PubMedArticle
4.
Saunders  RADonahue  MLChristmann  LM  et al. Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity Cooperative Group, Racial variation in retinopathy of prematurity. Arch Ophthalmol 1997;115604- 608
PubMedArticle
5.
Monos  TRosen  SKarplus  MYassur  Y Fundus pigmentation in retinopathy of prematurity. Pediatrics 1996;97343- 348
PubMed
6.
Schaffer  DBPalmer  EAPlotsky  DF  et al. Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity Cooperative Group, Prognostic factors in the natural course of retinopathy of prematurity. Ophthalmology 1993;100230- 237
PubMedArticle
7.
Arnold  RKesler  KAvila  E Susceptibility to ROP in Alaskan natives. J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus 1994;31192- 194
PubMed
8.
Osborne  NGFeit  MD The use of race in medical research. JAMA 1992;267275- 279
PubMedArticle
9.
Chow  LCWright  KWSola  ACSMC Oxygen Administration Study Group, Can changes in clinical practice decrease the incidence of severe retinopathy of prematurity in very low birth weight infants? Pediatrics 2003;111339- 345
PubMedArticle
10.
Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity Cooperative Group, Revised indications for the treatment of retinopathy of prematurity: results of the Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity randomized trial. Arch Ophthalmol 2003;1211684- 1694
PubMedArticle
11.
 Supplemental Therapeutic Oxygen for Prethreshold Retinopathy of Prematurity (STOP-ROP), a randomized, controlled trial, I: primary outcomes. Pediatrics 2000;105295- 310
PubMedArticle
12.
Parfit  M Dawn of humans. Natl Geogr Mag 2000;19840- 67
PubMed
13.
Gao  GLi  YFant  JCrosson  CEBecerra  SPMa  JX Difference in ischemic regulation of vascular endothelial growth factor and pigment epithelium–derived factor in Brown Norway and Sprague Dawley rats contributing to different susceptibilities to retinal neovascularization. Diabetes 2002;511218- 1225
PubMedArticle
14.
Dorfman  AJoly  SMoukhles  HChemtob  SLachapelle  P Rats are not all created equal when dealing with postnatal hyperoxia.  Paper presented at: Third International Symposium on ROP: An Update on ROP From the Lab to the Nursery November 13, 2003 Anaheim, Calif
15.
Steinkuller  PGDu  LGilbert  CFoster  ACollins  MLCoats  DK Childhood blindness. J AAPOS 1999;326- 32
PubMedArticle
×