Evaluation of visual acuity in a historical cohort of 137 patients treated for amblyopia by occlusion 30-35 years ago
Background: Opinions differ on the course of the visual acuity in the amblyopic eye after cessation of occlusion therapy. This study evaluated visual acuity in a historical cohort treated for amblyopia with occlusion therapy 30-35 years ago. Materials and Methods: Between 1968 and 1975, 1250 patients had been treated by the orthoptist in the Waterland Hospital in Purmerend, the Netherlands. Of these, 471 received occlusion treatment for amblyopia (prevalence 5.0%, after comparison with the local birth rate). We were able to contact 203 of these patients, 137 were orthoptically re-examined in 2003. We correlated the current visual acuity with the cause of amblyopia, the age at start and end of treatment, the visual acuity at start and end of treatment, fixation, binocular vision and refractive errors. Results: Mean age at the start of treatment was 5.4 ± 1.9 years, 7.4 ± 1.7 years at the end and 37 ± 2.7 years at follow-up. Current visual acuity in the amblyopic eye was correlated with a low visual acuity at the start (p < 0.0001) and end (p < 0.0001) of occlusion therapy, an eccentric fixation (p < 0.0001), and the cause of amblyopia (p = 0,005). At the end of the treatment, patients with a strabismic amblyopia (n = 98) had a visual acuity in the amblyopic eye of 0.29 logMAR ± 0.3, and in 2003 0.27 ± 0.3 logMAR. In patients with an anisometropic amblyopia (> 1 D, n = 16) visual acuity had decreased from 0.17 ± 0.23 logMAR to 0.21 logMAR ± 0.23. In patients with both strabismic and anisometropic amblyopia (n = 23), visual acuity had decreased from 0.52 logMAR ± 0.54 to 0.65 logMAR ± 0.54. Overall, acuity had decreased in 54 patients (39%) after cessation of treatment. Of these, 18 patients had an acuity decrease to less than 50% of their acuity at the end of treatment. In 15 of these 18 patients anisohypermetropia had increased. Conclusions: A decrease in visual acuity after cessation of occlusion therapy occurred in patients with a combined cause of amblyopia or with an increase in anisohypermetropia.