Austin doctor preventing babies from blindness as expert in retinopathy of prematurity

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Dr. C. Armitage Harper talks with mom Marcie Fontecchio after examining her daughter Lindley for retinopathy of prematurity. Harper is one of only 40 specialists in that disorder in the world.

Dr. C. Armitage Harper gazes into the tiny eye of a premature baby in the neonatal intensive care unit at St. David’s North Austin Medical Center.

He’s looking for signs of change. Catch problems quickly and the baby will grow up with almost normal vision. Find them too late or not look at all, and risk a lifetime of blindness. 

Harper is one of about 40 doctors in the world who specializes in retinopathy of prematurity, a disease that happens when the blood vessels in the retina grow abnormally. 

It typically happens in babies who are born before 32 weeks gestation and weighing less than 3 pounds.

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The oxygen they receive in their isolettes plays a factor. Give them too much and you risk damaging their eyes, but it’s a delicate balance because these babies need the oxygen to survive until their lungs are fully developed.

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Kathy Laura

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