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Eye Exam for Retinopathy of Prematurity
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Eye Exam for Retinopathy of Prematurity Overview

Written by FoundHealth.


During this exam, an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) examines the interior of the eyes through a special lens. The doctor checks for any damaged blood vessels in the retina. The retina is a light-sensitive layer of tissue on the back of the inside of the eye.

Normal Anatomy of the Eye
Normal Anatomy of the Eye
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

  • Do not feed your infant right before the exam.
  • If recommended by the doctor, give you your infant a pacifier during the exam. This may help to soothe her.
  • The doctor will put eye drops in your infant’s eyes. These will dilate the pupils (the dark area in the center of the eye). The drops will take about 30-60 minutes to work.


The doctor may place drops in your infant’s eyes to numb them and keep her comfortable.

Description of the Procedure

After your infant is born, eye exams are usually scheduled to take place in 4-6 weeks. The eye exam will be done in the doctor’s office.

An assistant may gently place your infant in a blanket and hold her during the exam. The doctor will use an eyelid speculum to keep your infant's eyelids open. A special lens will be used to send a bright light into the eye. The doctor will check your infant’s retina. An eyelid depressor will also be used. This tool will help the doctor to move the eye in different directions.

How Long Will It Take?

30-60 minutes

Will It Hurt?

The dilating eye drops can cause stinging. The exam can cause discomfort, as well. Ask the doctor if your infant will need medicine to keep her comfortable.

Post-procedure Care

At the Care Center

Right after the exam, the doctor will tell you about the condition of your infant’s eyes. Follow up will be scheduled if your child needs a procedure or repeat screening.

At Home

Depending on the strength of the eye drops, your infant’s eyes may be dilated for 4-24 hours.



American Academy of Pediatrics

National Eye Institute


Canadian Ophthalmology Society

Canadian Pediatric Society


DynaMed Editorial Team. Retinopathy of prematurity. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: . Updated April 5, 2010. Accessed April 26, 2010.

Lewis R. Retinopathy of prematurity. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: . Published November 11, 2008. Updated date. Accessed April 15, 2010.

National Eye Institute. Retinopathy of prematurity. National Eye Institute website. Available at: . Updated February 2010. Accessed April 26, 2010.

Olitsky SE, Hug D, Smith LP. Retinopathy of prematurity. In: Kleigman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF. Nelson’s Textbook of Pediatrics. 18th ed. St. Louis, MO: Saunders; 2007.

Samra HA, McGrath JM. Pain management during retinopathy of prematurity eye examinations: a systematic review. Adv Neonatal Care. 2009;9;3:99-110.



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