A retrospective study of 385 infants born at a mean gestational age of 26.4 weeks has shown that early, low-foetal haemoglobin (HbF) is associated with abnormal retinal neurovascular development.
The study, led by Dr William Hellström at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, described retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) in 104 (27%) of the infants. The probability of any ROP was inversely related to mean HbF during the first postnatal week, with a probability of close to 60% for development of any ROP at a mean HbF of 40%.
“The potential causal mechanisms in ROP development involving low HbF thus appear to be operating during early postnatal development,” said researchers. They concluded that practices such as delayed umbilical cord clamping and avoiding excessive blood sampling of neonates with a low gestational age at birth support higher HbF and may be protective against developing ROP.