The late Dr. Arnall Patz, who passed away in 2010, is an ophthalmologist whose work deserves to be remembered. Although most people have never heard this doctor’s name, in the medical community he was extremely well-known and respected.
The work of Dr. Patz resulted in the closure of two-thirds of the schools for the blind. It’s truly remarkable how this came about.
A Blindness Epidemic in Premature Babies
Just as treatments for premature babies had improved in the 1950’s, there was a sharp increase in retrolental fibroplasia (RLF) causing blindness in these babies.
Premature infants at that time were routinely treated with great amounts of oxygen. The babies started off having a blue cast to their skin. After oxygen was given, they gained a healthy pink color.
Dr. Patz believed that providing these infants with too much oxygen had caused their blindness. His hypothesis was met with skepticism from the medical community, but his extensive research eventually proved that he was right.
Dr. Arnall Patz’s Amazing Legacy
After Patz’s findings became known, the use of high-dose oxygen therapy was limited. As a result of his research, there was a whopping sixty percent reduction in childhood blindness throughout the United States.
Today, oxygen-caused RLF (now called Retinopathy of Prematurity) is an infrequent occurrence. About 14,000 of the 3.9 million U.S.-born infants are affected by ROP. Of those, about 90% have only mild disease — thanks in large part to the work of one brilliant ophthalmologist.