Purpose: To compare 11 preschool vision screening tests administered by licensed eye care professionals (LEPs; optometrists and pediatric ophthalmologists).
Design: Multicenter, cross-sectional study.
Participants: A sample (N = 2588) of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in Head Start was selected to over-represent children with vision problems.
Methods: Certified LEPs administered 11 commonly used or commercially available screening tests. Results from a standardized comprehensive eye examination were used to classify children with respect to 4 targeted conditions: amblyopia, strabismus, significant refractive error, and unexplained reduced visual acuity (VA).
Main outcome measures: Sensitivity for detecting children with > or =1 targeted conditions at selected levels of specificity was the primary outcome measure. Sensitivity also was calculated for detecting conditions grouped into 3 levels of importance.
Results: At 90% specificity, sensitivities of noncycloplegic retinoscopy (NCR) (64%), the Retinomax Autorefractor (63%), SureSight Vision Screener (63%), and Lea Symbols test (61%) were similar. Sensitivities of the Power Refractor II (54%) and HOTV VA test (54%) were similar to each other. Sensitivities of the Random Dot E stereoacuity (42%) and Stereo Smile II (44%) tests were similar to each other and lower (P<0.0001) than the sensitivities of NCR, the 2 autorefractors, and the Lea Symbols test. The cover-uncover test had very low sensitivity (16%) but very high specificity (98%). Sensitivity for conditions considered the most important to detect was 80% to 90% for the 2 autorefractors and NCR. Central interpretations for the MTI and iScreen photoscreeners each yielded 94% specificity and 37% sensitivity. At 94% specificity, the sensitivities were significantly better for NCR, the 2 autorefractors, and the Lea Symbols VA test than for the 2 photoscreeners for detecting > or =1 targeted conditions and for detecting the most important conditions.
Conclusions: Screening tests administered by LEPs vary widely in performance. With 90% specificity, the best tests detected only two thirds of children having > or =1 targeted conditions, but nearly 90% of children with the most important conditions. The 2 tests that use static photorefractive technology were less accurate than 3 tests that assess refractive error in other ways. These results have important implications for screening preschool-aged children.