This study revealed specific types of cardiovascular disease that are associated with ROP.
This study revealed specific types of cardiovascular disease that are associated with ROP. Click image to enlarge.

While risk factor studies have been conducted, there is limited data on the link between cardiovascular disease and retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Researchers recently set out to determine whether there is a significant association among premature infants undergoing ROP examination.

The investigators performed secondary analyses of data from the multicenter Postnatal Growth and ROP Validation Study (GROP-2)—a prospective observational cohort trial. Cardiovascular diseases were categorized based on pulmonary and systemic blood flow, pulmonary hypertension and dysrhythmia.

Among 3,980 infants, 13.3% had cardiovascular disease, 40.4% developed ROP and 12.6% developed severe ROP. On average, infants with cardiovascular disease had a slightly lower weight and gestational age at birth. Multivariate analysis showed no significant correlation between the presence of cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of ROP or severe disease, according to the study authors.

However, they did observe an association with cardiovascular disease resulting in increased pulmonary blood flow and a higher risk of ROP as well as a link between pulmonary hypertension and an increased chance of severe disease. The researchers reported that these associations were significant when adjusting for birth weight and gestational age.

Overall, these findings suggest specific types of cardiovascular disease—rather than cardiovascular disease as a whole—are correlated to ROP. When discussing the clinical implications of their work, the study authors wrote, “These specific cardiovascular conditions might be included as predictors in an ROP risk model or prompt ROP examinations for infants who otherwise would not meet ROP screening criteria.”

They emphasized that these applications would require additional validation before clinical use, while noting that “future studies may also enable us to better understand the pathogenic mechanisms that may underlie these associations.”

Bhatti F, Yu Y, Ying GS, et al. Association of cardiovascular disease with retinopathy of prematurity. Ophthalmic Epidemiology. February 9, 2022. [Epub ahead of print].