Retrolental fibroplasia was the most common cause of blindness in children from 1940 to the mid 1950's. In 1954 the excessive and prolonged use of oxygen in incubators where premature infants were placed was discovered to be the agent by which some of those born before the 26th week and weighing less than 3 lbs (1.3 kg) developed retrolental fibroplasia in the second month of life. About half of these children became partially or completely blind due to proliferative vascular changes in the retina and lens and secondary degeneration of the associative tissues in the eyes. In the others, the proliferative vascular process regressed, leaving the eyes essentially normal.
A disproportionate number of the afflicted children are also mentally defective, cerebral spastic, epileptic, or show other evidence of brain damage. The question arises, then, whether this brain damage is due to the oxygen that damaged the eyes. No comparable pathologic