The aim of the research program supported by the Wright Foundation is to apply technology and advances from basic research to solve clinical problems. In many instances, technical advances exist but have not been implemented to improve the clinical care of our children. Clinical tasks that are easy to accomplish in adults are often difficult, or nearly impossible, to perform in infants and young children.

Very low birth weight premature infant (birth weight 750 grams) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Neonatal ICU.

Very low birth weight premature infant (birth weight 750 grams) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Neonatal ICU.

Research studies currently underway include:

Preventing Blindness in Premature Infants

The importance of clinical research is exemplified by our success with premature infants and the prevention of severe Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. ROP is a retinal disease occurring in premature infants and is most severe in Very Low Birth Weight infants (VLBW) under 1,500 grams.

Blindness from ROP occurs in approximately 3% of premature infants born, but much higher in certain neonatal intensive care units throughout the United States and worldwide. At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, data from 1997 showed elevated rates of severe ROP with an increased need for laser treatment, which, unfortunately, often fails. In response to these high rates of severe ROP, we initiated a quality improvement program in 1998 that included a protocol for the strict management of oxygen in all very low birth weight infants. Since instituting the new protocol, we have seen a dramatic reduction in severe ROP. Over the last 3 years, none of the premature infants on the protocol required laser treatment, and no child has gone blind.

Read about our publications and press releases on our ROP research endeavors.

Our goal is to provide a caring environment where all children can gain access to the highest level, medical and surgical care regardless of ability to pay. In this spirit, Dr. Wright and his team have cared for underprivileged children in the Los Angeles area, including those referred from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s COACH (Community Outreach Assistance for Children’s Health) program; a unique service where a specially-equipped van goes to the Los Angeles inner-city community and examines kids who would not otherwise receive care. COACH children identified with eye problems are referred to our office and seen at no charge if they are not covered by state aid. Services include surgery and glasses if indicated. Over 100 disadvantaged children from the Los Angeles area are cared for per month in our pediatric office. Families are served on the basis of medical need, not on ability to pay.

PRK for Amblyopia Caused by Anisometropia in Farsighted Children

A blurred image in a child disrupts normal visual development of the brain and can result in permanent visual loss, which is termed Amblyopia (often called lazy eye by lay people). Children with farsightedness (hypermetropia) in one eye have a constantly blurred image in that eye. The child adapts to this visually disruptive state by the brain turning off the blurred image in preference to using the clear image from the good eye. Over time, constant rejection of the blurred image results in permanent vision loss (ie, amblyopia). The standard treatment has been to correct the farsightedness with glasses or contact lenses, but the treatment often fails since many children refuse to wear the unbalanced, unbecoming glasses or cannot handle contact lenses. Amblyopia is present in approximately 2-3% of the pediatric population, and these children present a special problem for the pediatric ophthalmologist. Correcting the farsightedness with laser refractive surgery represents a new option for these children. Currently, there is very little data known on the use of laser surgery in children with farsightedness and amblyopia.