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Recently a new technique was reported in which examination of the retina of oxygen reared newborn rats was made using indirect fluorescence microscopy (Invest. Ophthal. Vis. Sci. 31:810). We have now improved this technique and systematically employed it as a means of studying oxygen-induced retinopathy in the newborn rat as an animal model for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Immediately after birth, litters of pigmented rats were exposed to an elevated oxygen atmosphere that varied in a cyclic fashion between 40% and 80% every 12 hours for 14 days. Rats raised simultaneously in room air served as controls. At the end of the treatment period, rats were deeply anesthetized, their pupils dilated, and 100 microliters of 3% sodium fluorescein was administered via tail venipuncture. After angiography, rats were awakened and returned to their mothers in room air for future assessment. Angiography was performed again at 4, 7, 38 or 56 days after oxygen treatment. Our results suggest that retinal pathology in the rat model parallels that of the human infant with ROP with respect to loss of patent retinal blood vessels in oxygen and subsequent abnormal vasoproliferation upon return to room air. Angiograms performed on room air-raised control rats at 14 days of age demonstrated our ability to resolve the smallest retinal capillaries. Angiograms conducted at the same age in oxygen-exposed rats revealed extensive areas of retinal non-perfusion and substantial arterio-venous shunting between adjacent primary vessels. If rats were maintained in room air for 4 or 7 days following oxygen exposure, a variety of pathologic signs became obvious including: 1) tortuosity of primary vessels mimicking human "plus disease", 2) frequent abnormal budding of tertiary vessels and capillaries, 3) retinal fluorescein leaks indicative of hemorrhages and 4) abnormal capillary tufts not evident at the time of removal from oxygen. By 38 and 56 days post-exposure, all four of these phenomena were still observed. Many of these pathologic phenomena could not have been observed with conventional methods currently used for retinal vascular assessment in small animals.