• This matched cohort study examining the extent of hospitalization among legally blind children provided a picture of extensive and complex health issues requiring significant periods of care in tertiary-level hospitals.

    Data from children confirmed as legally blind between 2003 and 2009 in the voluntary register of the Association for the Blind of Western Australia and from pediatric ophthalmologists’ clinics were compared with data from age- and gender-matched normally-sighted children from the Western Australia? state register of births.

    Blind children had four times more hospital separations, stayed in the hospital six times longer, and had more than 40 times as many comorbidities compared with normally-sighted children. They also showed an unexpectedly high incidence of respiratory illness, with one-third requiring hospitalization for this.

    The authors write that they did not anticipate that respiratory problems would account for the most bed days in this cohort of children, or that respiratory problems requiring hospitalization were almost entirely among the blind children. This higher rate of respiratory illness is a concern as it may lead to serious morbidity and mortality in these children.