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Queens Chronicle

New NYHQ Laser Eye Treatment Saves Sight Of Premature Baby

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Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2004 12:00 am

Doctors at New York Hospital Queens were concerned for the health and, in particular, the eyesight of baby Maria Paez, who was born three and a half months before she was due. She only weighed 1 pound and 14 ounces at birth in early November.

With the help of a talented medical staff and an eye specialist, baby Maria was discharged a week ago to her Dix Hills home with a clean bill of health, her eyesight intact and a good prognosis. Now, Maria weighs a little over six pounds.

“As a chiropractor, I was very picky about the health care of my wife and my baby. I did a lot of research and found that New York Hospital Queens had one of the top NICUs (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) in New York,” says the baby’s father, Emilio Paez. “I was 112 percent satisfied with the care that the baby and my wife received.”

Maria was born after only 26 weeks in the womb. As with other premature babies, her eye health was a focus of concern.

Her general health and development in her first weeks of life required a lot of attention by doctors and nurses in the hospital’s Level III NICU, which is a facility completely equipped for premature newborns. Doctors discovered that her eyes had not fully developed and that she had a condition called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). It causes the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the back of the eye, which can cause the eye’s retina to detach and lead to total vision loss.

“The NICU at New York Hospital Queens did a great job for the baby,” said Dr. Sang Woo Lee, the attending vitreous and retinal specialist, who treated baby Maria. “I just had a follow-up medical visit with her and she has an extremely good prognosis. At this point, she doesn’t require any more eye treatment.”

Dr. Lee followed the baby’s condition after birth until it progressed to a treatable stage. On January 21st, the disease had reached the threshold point when Dr. Lee could perform the laser treatments to stop the abnormal blood vessel growth.

More than 80 percent of premature babies who weigh less than 2.2 pounds develop ROP. The incidence is rising because of the medical profession’s ability to improve survival rates among even the most premature babies. ROP is responsible for more blindness among children in this country than all other causes combined.

Dr. Lee performed laser surgery in the NICU at New York Hospital Queens using sophisticated equipment found at only a few hospitals in the region. With this procedure, the systemic side effects are significantly less, the eye tissues are less traumatized, and general anesthesia is not necessary, and, according to many recent studies, there is less incidence of late complications.

“We are all excited that the laser eye treatment can be performed in our NICU,” said Dr. Harry Moreau, director of Neonatology at New York Hospital Queens. “Before we had the equipment and the eye specialist, 100 percent of our cases had to be transferred to hospitals in Manhattan. Now, we can provide the fullest course of care for our NICU babies from start to finish with the best results possible.”

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