BACKGROUND: Preterm infants with anaemia are treated with recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO). It is debated whether rhEPO treatment is a risk factor for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). We evaluated longitudinal EPO and haemoglobin levels, blood transfusions and neonatal morbidities as risk factors for severe ROP. METHOD: This prospective study included 78 Swedish infants, born <28 weeks gestational age (GA), screened for ROP. We tested serum EPO levels on postnatal days 1, 7, 14 and 28 and at postmenstrual ages 32, 36 and 40 weeks. Haemoglobin levels and blood transfusions were recorded during postnatal weeks 1-4. Anaemia was defined as haemoglobin ≤110 g/L. RESULTS: During postnatal week 1, infants with severe ROP requiring treatment (28%) more frequently developed anaemia (42.9% versus 8.0%, P = 0.003) and had higher mean EPO levels (postnatal day 7: 14.2 versus 10.8 mIU/mL, P = 0.003) compared to infants with no or less severe ROP not requiring treatment. In multivariable analyses, GA and anaemia during week 1 remained significant risk factors, but elevated EPO level postnatal day 7 was no longer significant. CONCLUSIONS: Among infants born <28 weeks GA, anaemia during week 1 was a significant risk factor for severe ROP requiring treatment but not elevated EPO levels.