Scientists have shown that through eye exams at the crib-side, doctors can identify infants who are most likely to benefit from early treatment for a potentially blinding eye condition called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), resulting in better vision for many children. ROP is one of the most common causes of vision loss in children and affects an estimated 15,000 premature infants born each year in the United States. At-risk infants generally are born before 31 weeks of the mother's pregnancy and weigh 2.75 pounds or less. When a baby is born prematurely, growth of the blood vessels in the back of the eye may stop before the vessels reach the edge of the retina. In these newborns, abnormal, fragile blood vessels and retinal tissue may develop at the edges of the normal tissue. The abnormal vessels can cause scarring that may pull on the retina and cause it to detach. About 90 percent of infants with ROP have a mild form that does not require treatment, but those who have a more severe form can develop lifelong visual impairment, and possibly blindness. The current Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ETROP) study followed 370 children who, as infants, had been treated early or managed conventionally for ROP. Results of the study confirm that at 6 years of age the visual benefit of early treatment for infants with certain eye characteristics continues. The research, published April 12 online in Archives of Ophthalmology, was supported by the National Eye Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health. This study has set the standard of care for infants with ROP by showing that early treatment of selected high-risk premature babies and careful monitoring of others has positive longer-term results on vision. However, additional research is needed to identify still better methods for the prevention and treatment of severe ROP.