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Partnership with Mass Eye and Ear allows for specialized infant eye exams at Wentworth-Douglass

Wentworth-Douglass Hospital is teaming up with retina specialists at Mass Eye and Ear to launch a new retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) program, which will allow infants to remain local while receiving specialized eye exams.

The hospital will have the ability to perform the specialized exams starting on Sept. 19.

"This is an outstanding example of teamwork and the leveraging of resources within the Mass General Brigham (MGB) system to keep Seacoast babies close to their homes.,” said Dr. Christopher Rouse, Medical Director of Newborn Medicine Services at Wentworth-Douglass. “Retinopathy of prematurity is the leading cause of childhood blindness in the United States. The ability to detect retinopathy and determine treatment for at-risk infants at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital, in collaboration with MGB and Mass Eye and Ear, is a brand-new capability for our region.”

Retinopathy of prematurity is an eye disease that affects retinal development in babies who are born prematurely, specifically babies born at less than 30 weeks and/or who weigh less than 1500 grams (or 3 pounds 3oz). The extent of ROP can be dependent on the birth weight of the baby, the age at which the baby was born, and other medical factors. These infants will require serial eye exams while in the hospital.

There will be a core group of trained registered nurses at Wentworth-Douglass performing the eye exams in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Eye exams are performed onsite using a specialized camera and images are uploaded and read remotely by the Mass Eye and Ear retina specialists.

"The ROP telemedicine program is an exciting multidisciplinary collaboration that will allow vulnerable premature babies and their families to stay closer to home while their eye care is managed remotely,” said Joan W. Miller, MD, Chief of Ophthalmology at Mass Eye and Ear and Massachusetts General Hospital and Ophthalmologist-in-Chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We look forward to partnering with Wentworth-Douglas Hospital to offer this unique resource and to help ease the burdens for local families by bringing top pediatric eye expertise into their community.”

Wentworth-Douglass’ NICU is a Level IIB Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Infants born at greater than 32 weeks gestation are cared for by the hospital’s NICU team. Infants born at less than 32 weeks are transferred out to one of the surrounding tertiary care hospitals.

With the addition of the ROP program at Wentworth-Douglass, infants will be able to return to the hospital to have their eye exams all while continuing their care in their own community.

The program is being co-led by Nimesh Patel, MD, a pediatric retina specialist at Mass Eye and Ear, and Sergei Roumiantsev, MD, PhD, Associate Chief of the Division of Neonatology and Newborn Medicine and Medical Director of Neonatology at MassGeneral Hospital for Children.

The purchase of the specialized camera, RetCam, was made possible through a generous gift from Newburyport Bank to the Wentworth-Douglass Hospital Charitable Foundation in support of strategic initiatives at the Women and Children’s Center. 

“Newburyport Bank is committed to the health of our most vulnerable and precious babies. If we can save one life, our work has proved invaluable,” said Lloyd Hamm, Newburyport Bank president.

Jackie Eastwood, chair of The Foundation stated, “our community is so committed to philanthropically supporting our work and the impact of their generosity is visible every day.”

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