Ultrasound of retinoblastoma

When there is a family history of retinoblastoma, newborn babies should be examined in the nursery at birth by an ophthalmologist, or an eye doctor. When there is no family history, it is frequently the parents who notice leukocoria or strabismus and bring their child in for an examination. Often the general ophthalmologist refers the child to an ophthalmologist who specializes in children with retinoblastoma and other cancer of the eye.

The ophthalmic examination by the specialist is best done under general anesthesia. Some very young and older patients can be examined without general anesthesia; this decision is made by the ophthalmologist. When the examination is performed without general anesthesia, the child is placed on his or her back and is wrapped in a sheet like a mummy to restrict the movement of the child's arms and legs. Dilating drops (which sting for approximately 30 seconds after they are placed in the eye) are placed into both eyes prior to the examination. These drops dilate the pupils of the eyes and allow the ophthalmologist to view the retina. Sometimes numbing drops are also placed in both eyes to numb the surface.

If the child is to be examined under anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will put him or her to sleep by placing a mask over his or her mouth or nose. A tube may also be placed in the child's throat to aid breathing and an intravenous line may be started. In order to minimize the risks of anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will ask that the child not be given food or fluids for several hours before the examination. The child will usually fall asleep within a few minutes and the parent may stay until the child is anesthetized. If you have any doubts or questions about whether your child should have anesthesia, you should ask your ophthalmologist, anesthesiologist or nurse.

Diagnostic Facts:

  • Retinoblastoma is diagnosed with the indirect ophthalmoscope, ultrasound, CT/MRI scans

  • Biopsies are rarely necessary

  • Anesthesia for examination and treatment may be necessary as often as every 2 weeks

  • Examination of the parents may help in the diagnosis of the child


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