The clinical effectiveness and safety of prophylactic retinal interventions to reduce the risk of retinal detachment and subsequent vision loss in adults and children with Stickler syndrome: a systematic review

Health Technol Assess. 2011 Apr;15(16):iii-xiv, 1-62. doi: 10.3310/hta15160.


Background: Stickler syndrome, also known as hereditary progressive arthro-ophthalmopathy, is an inherited progressive disorder of the collagen connective tissues. Manifestations include short-sightedness, cataracts, retinal problems leading to retinal detachment and possible blindness. This is principally the case among individuals with type 1 Stickler Syndrome. It is the most commonly identified inherited cause of retinal detachment in childhood. However, there is no consensus regarding best practice and no current guidelines on prophylactic interventions for this population.

Objectives: The aim of this systematic review was to assess the evidence for the clinical effectiveness and safety of primary prophylactic interventions for the prevention of retinal detachment in previously untreated eyes without retinal detachment in patients with Stickler syndrome. The primary outcome of interest was retinal detachment post prophylaxis.

Data sources: A systematic search was made of 11 databases of published and unpublished literature, which included MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process & Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature and The Cochrane Library. There was no restriction by language or date. The references of all included studies were checked for further relevant citations and authors of studies with potentially relevant data were also contacted.

Review methods: Two reviewers double-screened all titles and abstracts of the citations retrieved by the search to identify studies that satisfied the inclusion criteria. Both reviewers also independently extracted and quality assessed all included studies. A narrative synthesis was performed.

Results: The literature search identified 1444 unique citations, of which four studies satisfied the inclusion criteria. The two principal studies were both retrospective cohort studies with control groups in populations with type 1 Stickler syndrome. One study evaluated 360° cryotherapy (n = 204) and the other focal or circumferential laser treatment (n = 22). Both studies reported a statistically significant difference in the rate of retinal detachment per eye between the groups receiving prophylaxis and the controls. However, both studies were subject to a high risk of bias. The results of the two supporting studies of Wagner-Stickler patients were either relatively inconsistent or unreliable. No study reported any major or long-term complications associated with the interventions. Despite the weaknesses of the evidence, the rate of retinal detachment in the intervention groups, especially the cryotherapy group, was lower than the rate either experienced in the study control groups or reported in other studies of untreated Stickler syndrome populations not exposed to prophylaxis.

Conclusions: Only 360° cryotherapy and focal and circumferential laser treatment have been evaluated for the type 1 Stickler syndrome population, and then only by a single retrospective, controlled, cohort study in each case. Both of these studies report a significant difference between intervention and control groups (principally no treatment) and no major or long-term side effects or complications. However, there is a high risk of bias within these two studies, so the relative effectiveness of either intervention is uncertain.

Future work: A service priority is to determine reliably the prevalence of Stickler syndrome, i.e. how many individuals have type 1 or type 2 Stickler syndrome, and their risk of retinal detachment and subsequent blindness. A non-randomised, prospective cohort comparison study, in which eligible participants are treated, followed-up and analysed in one of three study arms, for no treatment, laser therapy or cryotherapy, would potentially offer further certainty in terms of the relative efficacy of both prophylaxis versus no prophylaxis and cryotherapy versus laser therapy than is possible with the currently available data. Alternatively, continued follow-up and analysis of existing study data, and data collection from relevant sample populations, are required to assess the long-term risks of blindness, retinal detachment and prophylaxis.

Funding: This study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Arthritis / complications
  • Arthritis / surgery
  • Arthritis / therapy
  • Blindness / etiology
  • Blindness / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Collagen Type XI / deficiency
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / complications
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / surgery
  • Connective Tissue Diseases / therapy
  • Cryotherapy
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / complications
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / surgery
  • Hearing Loss, Sensorineural / therapy
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy
  • Retinal Detachment / complications
  • Retinal Detachment / etiology
  • Retinal Detachment / prevention & control*
  • Retinal Detachment / surgery
  • Retinal Detachment / therapy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Vitreous Detachment / complications
  • Vitreous Detachment / surgery
  • Vitreous Detachment / therapy


  • Collagen Type XI

Supplementary concepts

  • Stickler syndrome, type 1
  • Stickler syndrome, type 2