Contributor: Gordon K. Klintworth
Retinopathy of prematurity (retrolental fibroplasia, Terry syndrome) is an important bilateral disease of the retina of infancy that was first discovered by Theodore Laster Terry (1899-1946) an American Ophthalmologist. Almost all cases of the retinopathy are premature infants who have been exposed to oxygen in an incubator. While living in the high oxygen containing environment of an incubator the peripheral retina of the premature infant fails to vascularize, but after removal from the incubator the non-vascularized peripheral retina is relatively ischemic and sprouts new blood vessels. The condition usually becomes apparent 5-10 weeks after removal from the incubator. After exposure to high levels of ambient oxygen the developing blood vessels in the peripheral retina obliterate and the peripheral retina, which does not normally vascularize until the end of fetal life, remains avascular. When the premature infant eventually returns to room air, an intense proliferation of vascular endothelium and glial cells begins at the junction of the avascular and vascularized portions of the retina. This neovascularization is thought to result from the liberation of an angiogenic factor.