Medical Field: Ophthalmology
Award: Winner
Country: Slovenia
Year: 2020
Research Work: Choroidal structural changes in preterm children with and without retinopathy of prematurity
Published in: Acta Ophthalmologica


Connecting with foreign institutions is very important


Assist. Alenka Lavrič Groznik, MD, MSc, an ophthalmologist from the University Medical Centre Ljubljana, Slovenia, is one of this year's two finalists in the field of ophthalmology. She is extremely happy to be in the finals, as to her and her entire team (two paediatric ophthalmologists treating children with retinopathy of prematurity, Assist. Prof. Manca Tekavčič Pompe, MD, PhD, and Assist. Špela Markelj, MD, as well as researchers from abroad) the nomination means recognition and encouragement to continue research and clinical work.

As a research doctor, Dr. Lavrič Groznik believes that we have many excellent scientists in Slovenia. She finds it especially important to connect with other foreign institutes and clinics, as some diseases are rare and it is sometimes very difficult to obtain a statistically large sample for research. In Slovenia, ophthalmological research is carried out in addition to clinical work with patients, while research activity in larger institutions abroad is usually separate: they have additional time, facilities, equipment and research staff available.

The study led by Assist. Prof. Manca Tekavčič Pompe, PhD, with whom Dr. Lavrič Groznik qualified for the finals, was part of her doctoral dissertation and carried out in collaboration with the Tan Tock Seng Hospital from Singapore. The study looked at choroidal vascularity in premature infants, as several studies published so far confirmed a thinner choroid in premature infants, either with or without retinopathy of prematurity, compared with full-term infants, but so far none of the studies described choroidal vascularity. The number of severely premature infants is increasing, so retinopathy of prematurity in these children is an important cause of visual impairment and even blindness.

Our study has shown that choroidal vascularity in children with retinopathy of prematurity is worse than in healthy full-term infants of comparable age. We also established that reduced choroidal vascularity coincided with poorer visual acuity in children. The study revealed choroidal impairment in premature infants which has so far been significantly less investigated compared to retinal impairment. Altered choroidal structure could also be one of the risk factors for poorer visual acuity in children with retinopathy of prematurity.

Dr. Lavrič Groznik estimates that ophthalmology is one of the fastest developing branches in medicine.

The development of new technologies and advanced devices, such as optical coherence tomography, enables non-invasive study of the retina and choroid. The examination is quick and with improved image resolution. Also, optical coherence tomography angiography is a new method that allows the display of blood flow in the retinal and choroidal vessels without the use of dye and therefore does not cause adverse effects. These and other investigative methods allow us a better insight into the pathogenesis of many diseases of the retina and choroid,

concludes Dr. Lavrič Groznik, who prefers to spend her free time in the company of her two lively boys and surrounded by her extended family.