Unclouding babies' vision

M.J. Burkett and James Weeks

After cataract surgergy, intraocular lenses (IOLs) have become the standard means of focusing the eyes in school-age children and adults. But because IOLs carry a higher rate of complications, ophthalmologists typically have avoided their use in infants.

However, Emory ophthalmologist Scott Lambert wanted to know if the potential complication risks for IOLs in infants could be offset by a significant improvement in vision over time. He is leading a national study involving 12 eye institutes to determine which is better for infants who have had cataract surgery—contacts or IOLs.

M.J. Burkett (above right) and James Weeks (above left) are participants in the trial. After surgery at Emory, both boys received IOLs, glasses, and a supply of eye patches. They continue to return for follow-up four times a year to track their progress.

So far, Lambert and his colleagues have found no difference in vision between those using a contact or an IOL. However, for IOLs, the rate of complications during surgery has been three times higher and in additional surgeries, five times higher.

Funded by the National Eye Institute, the study, now in its seventh year, will span a decade. The ophthalmologists next plan to test the children’s vision when they are 4 to determine if there is a long-term visual benefit to use of IOLs.

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