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Hospital introduces sight screening for premature babies

Addenbrooke Hospital establishes telemedicine screening service for premature babies

Louise Allen

The eye department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital has established a new telemedicine service in a bid to improve the time-critical vision screening of premature babies at risk of developing retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). If successful, the approach could transform the way in which ROP is managed across the UK.

Led by consultant paediatric ophthalmologist, Louise Allen (pictured), the service uses an innovative approach to assess ROP using the Keeler Vantage digital indirect ophthalmoscope. The ophthalmoscopes have been to hospitals in the east of the UK to allow digital images to be captured remotely and sent for further examination.

Before the service’s introduction, Ms Brooks explained to OT that as an established treatment centre for ROP, any at-risk babies within the eastern region of the UK would be transferred to Addenbrookes for assessment in person. “This was stressful and disruptive for the baby and its parents, and created a significant knock-on effect in the ward, requiring other babies to be moved to other units in the region to free up cot space for the transfer,” she said.

Discussing the benefits of the new telemedicine service, Ms Brooks said: “The joy of telemedicine using an indirect ophthalmoscope is that you can send a high-quality digital image remotely and can get an immediate second opinion without having to physically send the baby. This means we can eliminate unnecessary transfers and keep the neonatal intensive care cots here free for babies in need. Additionally, the digital indirect ophthalmoscope is more cost effective than other photographic methods and can also be used for training our future screeners.”

The service has been funded by the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust.