Vision in former very low birthweight young adults with and without retinopathy of prematurity compared with term born controls: the NZ 1986 VLBW follow-up study

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There are few data on visual outcomes in adulthood of former very low birthweight (VLBW; <1500 g) infants. We aimed to assess vision at 27–29 years in a national cohort of VLBW infants born in 1986 and assessed for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) when no treatment was available, compared with term born controls.


The cohort and controls attended a 2-day assessment in Christchurch as part of a larger study. Visual assessment included glasses prescription measured by focimeter, logarithm of the minimum angle of resolution (logMAR) distance visual acuity (VA), contrast sensitivity, autorefraction, retinal photographs and a questionnaire on vision-related everyday activities. Rates of reduced VA and myopia in the VLBW cohort at 27–29 were compared with the results of vision testing at 7–8 years.


250 VLBW adults (77% those alive) gave study consent and 229 (45 with a history of ROP) were assessed in Christchurch, plus 100 term born controls. VLBW adults with ROP had reduced VA compared with no ROP and controls (mean logMAR score (SD); 0.003 (0.19), –0.021 (0.16), –0.078 (0.09), P=0.001). There were no differences in myopia (>2 D) between the groups but high myopia (>5 D) was confined to those with ROP. VLBW adults with ROP drove a car less often and had higher difficulties with everyday activities scores due to eyesight. Between 7–8 and 27–29 years rates of reduced VA were stable but myopia increased.


Former VLBW young adults with ROP have ongoing problems with vision affecting daily living and should continue in regular ophthalmological review.

Trial registration number

ACTRN12612000995875, Pre-results.

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