Refractive status at birth is related to gestational age. Preterm babies have myopia which decreases as gestational age increases and term babies are known to be hypermetropic. This study looked at the correlation of refractive status with birth weight in term and preterm babies, and with physical indicators of intra-uterine growth such as the head circumference and length of the baby at birth.
All babies delivered at St. Stephens Hospital and admitted in the nursery were eligible for the study. Refraction was performed within the first week of life. 0.8% tropicamide with 0.5% phenylephrine was used to achieve cycloplegia and paralysis of accommodation. 599 newborn babies participated in the study. Data pertaining to the right eye is utilized for all the analyses except that for anisometropia where the two eyes were compared. Growth parameters were measured soon after birth. Simple linear regression analysis was performed to see the association of refractive status, (mean spherical equivalent (MSE), astigmatism and anisometropia) with each of the study variables, namely gestation, length, weight and head circumference. Subsequently, multiple linear regression was carried out to identify the independent predictors for each of the outcome parameters.
Simple linear regression showed a significant relation between all 4 study variables and refractive error but in multiple regression only gestational age and weight were related to refractive error. The partial correlation of weight with MSE adjusted for gestation was 0.28 and that of gestation with MSE adjusted for weight was 0.10. Birth weight had a higher correlation to MSE than gestational age.
This is the first study to look at refractive error against all these growth parameters, in preterm and term babies at birth. It would appear from this study that birth weight rather than gestation should be used as criteria for screening for refractive error, especially in developing countries where the incidence of intrauterine malnutrition is higher.