Spectrum of visual disorders in children with cerebral visual impairment

J Child Neurol. 2007 Mar;22(3):294-301. doi: 10.1177/08830738070220030801.


Cerebral visual impairment is a visual function deficit caused by damage to the retrogeniculate visual pathways in the absence of any major ocular disease. It is the main visual deficit in children in the developed world. Preperinatal hypoxic-ischemic damage is the most frequent cause of cerebral visual impairment, but the etiology is variable. The authors set out to evaluate the presence of visual disorders not attributable to any major ocular pathology in a sample of children with central nervous system disease and to describe the clinical picture of cerebral visual impairment in this cohort. One hundred twenty-one patients with central nervous system damage and visual impairment underwent a protocol developed at the authors' center that included neurologic, neurophthalmologic, and neuroradiologic assessments (brain magnetic resonance imaging). Reduced visual acuity was found in 105 of 121 patients, reduced contrast sensitivity in 58, abnormal optokinetic nystagmus in 88, and visual field deficit in 7. Fixation was altered in 58 patients, smooth pursuit in 95, and saccadic movements in 41. Strabismus was present in 88 patients, and abnormal ocular movements were found in 43 patients. Of the 27 patients in whom they could be assessed, visual-perceptual abilities were found to be impaired in 24. Fundus oculi abnormalities and refractive errors were frequently associated findings. This study confirms that the clinical expression of cerebral visual impairment can be variable and that, in addition to already well-documented symptoms (such as reduced visual acuity, visual field deficits, reduced contrast sensitivity), the clinical picture can also be characterized by oculomotor or visual-cognitive disorders. Cerebral visual impairment is often associated with ophthalmologic abnormalities, and these should be carefully sought. Early and careful assessment, taking into account both the neurophthalmologic and the ophthalmologic aspects, is essential for a correct diagnosis and the development of personalized rehabilitation programs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain Diseases / complications*
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology
  • Female
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Nystagmus, Optokinetic
  • Ocular Motility Disorders
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Vision Disorders / complications*
  • Vision Disorders / pathology
  • Visual Acuity / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology