The critical period for surgical treatment of dense congenital unilateral cataract

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1996 Jul;37(8):1532-8.


Purpose: Early treatment of dense congenital unilateral cataract is associated with better acuity outcomes. It is unclear whether there is a gradual worsening of prognosis with delay of treatment from the time of birth (linear model) or whether there exists an early window of time during which treatment is maximally effective, followed by declining success (bilinear model). The aim of the current study was to determine which model better describes the response to treatment.

Methods: A maximum likelihood procedure that permits statistical comparison between linear and bilinear models was applied to acuity outcomes from a group of 45 children 5 to 8 years of age with a history of dense congenital unilateral cataract diagnosed at 1 to 10 days of age. Contrast sensitivity and vernier acuity data from a subset of these children were evaluated with nonparametric statistical methods.

Results: The bilinear model provided a significantly better fit to the acuity outcome data. The line fitted to the initial portion of the function had a shallow slope that was not significantly different from 0.0. The intersection of the two linear functions occurred at 5.6 weeks and was followed by a steep decline in visual acuity outcomes. Contrast sensitivity and vernier outcome measures over a range of spatiotemporal conditions showed better outcomes were obtained with early treatment.

Conclusions: Intervention before 6 weeks of age may minimize the effects of congenital unilateral deprivation on the developing visual system and provide for optimal rehabilitation of visual acuity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aphakia, Postcataract / therapy
  • Cataract / congenital*
  • Cataract / physiopathology
  • Cataract Extraction*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Contact Lenses
  • Contrast Sensitivity / physiology
  • Humans
  • Prognosis
  • Sensory Deprivation
  • Time Factors
  • Visual Acuity / physiology*