Purpose: To introduce and describe two methods of grading the severity of infantile cataracts, and thereby propose a useful clinical guide for early surgical intervention.
Methods: Thirty-three subjects, aged 1 week to 8 years, participated in the study. Twenty-two were evaluated soon after birth (1 week), and 11 in childhood (3-8 years). All had isolated infantile cataracts, of which 16 were bilateral and 17 unilateral. Nine cataract types were examined; nuclear (n = 9), lamellar (n = 9), posterior lenticonus (n = 4), persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (n = 4), posterior polar (n = 3) and single cases of total, cortical, sutural and anterior polar. Grading the infantile cataracts was performed subjectively based on the cataract morphology, density and position using an 11-point (0-10) ordinal scale. Objective measures of the cataracts were performed by scanning and then digitising photo-slit lamp images to provide cataract intensity profiles. Subjects without cataracts acted as controls.
Results: Subjective gradings of 0 and 10 were assigned to the clear, cataract-free lens and the total cataract, respectively. Fixed grades of 1 (anterior polar, sutural) and 6 (posterior polar) were assigned to the three remaining cataracts with static morphologies. The five cataracts which were all progressive were given grading ranges, reflecting the initial and likely final morphological states. Objective measures were found to be valuable in indicating the exact position and relative density of the cataract, as well as accurately defining boundaries.
Conclusions: The magnitude and severity of infantile cataracts can be usefully characterised by an 11-point ordinal subjective grading scale. Although subjective grading alone is satisfactory, it can be greatly assisted by objective measures, particularly in the documentation of cataract progression. Cataracts assigned grades 1-4 were considered minor obstructions to vision and therefore not candidates for early surgery. Cataracts graded 5 and above were considered major visual defects, and ideally should be removed early in life.