Preventing Vision Loss in Preemies

premature baby - preemie

The Hirair and Anna Hovnanian Foundation Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, also known as the Regional Newborn Center (RNC), at Monmouth Medical Center treats about 550 infants each year for problems such as prematurity, low birth weight, acute illness, and congenital disorders.

The RNC has the highest survival rate of any neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of its kind in New Jersey. It’s staffed by board-certified neonatologists and advanced practice neonatal nurses.

“We have strong subspecialty support,” says Diane Attardi, MD, Chief of Neonatology and Medical Director of the RNC. “Our patients have access to pediatric cardiologists, surgeons, ophthalmologists, pulmonologists, nephrologists, neurologists, and others.”

Ike Ezon, MD
Ike Ezon, MD
Diane N. Attardi, MD
Diane Attardi, MD

Now MMC’s smallest patients also have access to Ike Ezon, MD, a fellowship-trained retina specialist who can treat babies with eye problems related to prematurity.

Pediatric ophthalmologists Larry Turtel, MD, and Ilene Pardon, MD, screen babies for a condition called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), a disease that affects babies born at or before 32 weeks and those with low birth weight. With this condition, the blood vessels grow abnormally in the eye. This can lead to vision loss or retinal detachment, which causes blindness.

Every year, several babies at MMC are diagnosed with advanced ROP, and sometimes the condition resolves on its own. If necessary, it can be treated with laser therapy.

Until recently, if a baby needed treatment, he or she had to be transferred to another hospital.

“As a NICU team, we develop relationships with patients and their families,” says Dr. Attardi. “When a baby with ROP had to leave for treatment, we’d be heartbroken. Now we get to keep the babies here with their care team. I’m thrilled because this is the best thing for them.”

The laser treatment, which is performed in a procedure room in the NICU, takes about an hour.

“We minimize movement of the babies because they’re fragile,” says Dr. Ezon.

MMC is one of just a few hospitals in the state to offer this treatment. “It rounds out our services,” says Dr. Attardi. “We aim to help NICU babies live happy, healthy lives.”

For more information on delivering at Monmouth Medical Center or taking a virtual tour or maternity classes, contact Ana Pinto, MSN, RNC, CBC, at (732) 923-5024 or To learn about current visitation policies, visit the Temporary CHanges to Services and Visitations Policies page.