Interventions for intermittent exotropia

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2013 May 31;2013(5):CD003737. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003737.pub3.


Background: The clinical management of intermittent exotropia has been discussed extensively in the literature, yet there remains a lack of clarity regarding indications for intervention, the most effective form of treatment and whether or not there is an optimal time in the evolution of the disease at which any treatment should be carried out.

Objectives: The objective of this review was to analyse the effects of various surgical and non-surgical treatments in randomised trials of participants with intermittent exotropia, and to report intervention criteria and determine the significance of factors such as age with respect to outcome.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group Trials Register) (The Cochrane Library, Issue 4, 2012), MEDLINE (January 1966 to May 2012), EMBASE (January 1980 to May 2012), Latin American and Caribbean Literature on Health Sciences (LILACS) (January 1982 to May 2012), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) (, ( and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) ( We did not use any date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. We last searched the electronic databases on 4 May 2012. We are no longer searching the UK Clinical Trials Gateway (UKCTG) for this review. We manually searched the British Orthoptic Journal up to 2002, and the proceedings of the European Strabismological Association (ESA), International Strabismological Association (ISA) and American Academy of Paediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus meeting (AAPOS) up to 2001. We contacted researchers who are active in the field for information about further published or unpublished studies.

Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials of any surgical or non-surgical treatment for intermittent exotropia.

Data collection and analysis: Each review author independently assessed study abstracts identified from the electronic and manual searches. Author analysis was then compared and full papers for appropriate studies were obtained.

Main results: We found one randomised trial that was eligible for inclusion. This trial showed that unilateral surgery was more effective than bilateral surgery for correcting the basic type of intermittent exotropia.

Authors' conclusions: The available literature consists mainly of retrospective case reviews, which are difficult to reliably interpret and analyse. The one randomised trial included found unilateral surgery more effective than bilateral surgery for basic intermittent exotropia. However, across all identified studies, measures of severity and thus criteria for intervention are poorly validated, and there appear to be no reliable natural history data. There is therefore a pressing need for improved measures of severity, a better understanding of the natural history and carefully planned clinical trials of treatment to improve the evidence base for the management of this condition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Exotropia / surgery*
  • Exotropia / therapy
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic