Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of treatment of amblyopia in children aged 7 to 17 years.
Methods: At 49 clinical sites, 507 patients with amblyopic eye visual acuity ranging from 20/40 to 20/400 were provided with optimal optical correction and then randomized to a treatment group (2-6 hours per day of prescribed patching combined with near visual activities for all patients plus atropine sulfate for children aged 7 to 12 years) or an optical correction group (optical correction alone). Patients whose amblyopic eye acuity improved 10 or more letters (> or =2 lines) by 24 weeks were considered responders.
Results: In the 7- to 12-year-olds (n = 404), 53% of the treatment group were responders compared with 25% of the optical correction group (P<.001). In the 13- to 17-year-olds (n = 103), the responder rates were 25% and 23%, respectively, overall (adjusted P = .22) but 47% and 20%, respectively, among patients not previously treated with patching and/or atropine for amblyopia (adjusted P = .03). Most patients, including responders, were left with a residual visual acuity deficit.
Conclusions: Amblyopia improves with optical correction alone in about one fourth of patients aged 7 to 17 years, although most patients who are initially treated with optical correction alone will require additional treatment for amblyopia. For patients aged 7 to 12 years, prescribing 2 to 6 hours per day of patching with near visual activities and atropine can improve visual acuity even if the amblyopia has been previously treated. For patients 13 to 17 years, prescribing patching 2 to 6 hours per day with near visual activities may improve visual acuity when amblyopia has not been previously treated but appears to be of little benefit if amblyopia was previously treated with patching. We do not yet know whether visual acuity improvement will be sustained once treatment is discontinued; therefore, conclusions regarding the long-term benefit of treatment and the development of treatment recommendations for amblyopia in children 7 years and older await the results of a follow-up study we are conducting on the patients who responded to treatment.