• COVID-19
  • Biosimilars
  • Cataract Therapeutics
  • DME
  • Gene Therapy
  • Workplace
  • Ptosis
  • Optic Relief
  • Imaging
  • Geographic Atrophy
  • AMD
  • Presbyopia
  • Ocular Surface Disease
  • Practice Management
  • Pediatrics
  • Surgery
  • Therapeutics
  • Optometry
  • Retina
  • Cataract
  • Pharmacy
  • IOL
  • Dry Eye
  • Understanding Antibiotic Resistance
  • Refractive
  • Cornea
  • Glaucoma
  • OCT
  • Ocular Allergy
  • Clinical Diagnosis
  • Technology

It takes a village to beat visual system diseases in children

Digital EditionOphthalmology Times: January 2021
Volume 46
Issue 1

Community involvement, research continue to boost treatment in pediatric population.

Richard W. Hertle, MD

This article was reviewed by Richard W. Hertle, MD

New standards have emerged for treating visual diseases in pediatric populations during the previous 2 decades, thanks to community involvement and external funding of research, according to Richard W. Hertle, MD, who described the progress achieved in various diseases as a result of those factors.

Hertle is chief of pediatric ophthalmology and director of the Vision Center at Akron Children’s Hospital in Akron, Ohio. He also is director of the hospital’s pediatric ophthalmology fellowship program and is the Dr Robert “Boomer” and Jill Burstine Chair in Pediatric Ophthalmology. He also is a professor of surgery at Northeast Ohio Medical University in Rootstown, Ohio.

Related: Making the most of imaging in examination of pediatric patients

Retinopathy of prematurity
Numerous studies of retinopathy of prematurity (ROP) have evaluated interventions such as cryotherapy, supplemental oxygen, light reduction, and early laser treatment that reduced blindness caused by abnormal development of blood vessels in thousands of infants annually to about 500.

The major findings included the following:

(1) Cryotherapy (Cryotherapy for Retinopathy of Prematurity Study [NCT00000133]) decreased blindness by 50% in infancy and 17% by age 10.

(2) Supplemental oxygen therapy (Supplemental Therapeutic Oxygen for Prethreshold Retinopathy of Prematurity Study [NCT01203436]) and reduction of ambient light (Light Reduction in Retinopathy of Prematurity Study [NCT00000156]) did not stop progression of ROP.

(3) Early laser application reduced blindness by another 5% (Early Treatment for Retinopathy of Prematurity [ETROP] Study [NCT00027222]).

(4) Artificial intelligence and use of telemedicine approaches for evaluating acute ROP decrease blindness worldwide.1

A more recent treatment is injection of intraocular bevacizumab (Avastin, Genentech), which, when compared with laser therapy, has been found by physicians to be equally efficacious, with the same long-term benefits and fewer adverse effects, Hertle said.2

Related: Micropulse laser therapy a safe treatment for retinal disorders


The Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group, a collaborative that conducts multicenter clinical research in strabismus, amblyopia, and other diseases treated by pediatric ophthalmologists, functions internationally with hundreds of physicians.

These trials, funded by more than $65 million raised since inception of the group in 1997, have developed new treatment protocols for strabismus, amblyopia, nasolacrimal duct obstruction, myopia, hyperopia, and uveitis.3

Hertle further recounted major findings of this group that were not the standard of care before the clinical trials, including the following:

(1) Patching for 2 hours is as effective as patching for 6 or 8 hours in patients with moderate amblyopia; (2) Patching 6 hours works as well as full-time patching in patients with dense amblyopia; (3) Atropine use can be as effective as patching; (4) Spectacle use alone can treat amblyopia without patching or drops in strabismic amblyopia.4

Related: Scleral melts: Patching ultimately may prove to be unnecessary

“The changes in the current standards of practice in common eye diseases are the result of these large clinical trials,” Hertle explained. “We are moving from anecdotes to the ability to practice rigorous ways to treat amblyopia and strabismus.”

Congenital cataract
The Infant Aphakia Treatment Study5 (NCT00212134) evaluated the use of an intraocular lens (IOL) compared with a contact lens during the first 6 months of life to treat unilateral congenital cataract. The results showed equal vision with both.

Convergence insufficiency

Children aged 9 to less than 18 years diagnosed with this disorder, which is present in 5% to 7% of children, were treated in a multicenter, randomized clinical trial6 to determine the effectiveness of the 4 therapies: office-based vergence/accommodative therapy plus home reinforcement, home-based pencil push-ups, home-based computer vergence/accommodative therapy and pencil push-ups, and office-based placebo therapy.

“The results showed that doing therapy in the office with home reinforcement was better than any other type of therapy, including pencil push-ups,” Hertle said.

A separate convergence trial that included 221 patients showed that convergence therapy to treat attention and reading was ineffective for attention and reading, and only helped convergence.6

Related: Looking to the future of pediatric ophthalmology

Community support

When considering all the studies performed in thousands of patients with a variety of visual diseases, the community support was the most consequential factor.

“By allowing the family and their children to participate in these trials and the grants, gifts, endowments, and time, we were able to progress in pediatric eye care,” Hertle said.

Read more by Lynda Charters


Richard W. Hertle, MD
Hertle has no financial interest in this subject matter.



1. Suelves AM, Shulman JP. Current screening and treatments in retinopathy of prematurity in the US. Eye Brain. 2016;8:37-43. doi:10.2147/EB.S94439

2. Barry GP, Tauber KA, Greenberg S, et al. A comparison of respiratory outcomes after treating retinopathy of prematurity with laser photocoagulation or intravitreal bevacizumab. Ophthalmol Retina. Published online June 5, 2020. doi:10.1016/j.oret.2020.06.002

3. Beck RW. Clinical research in pediatric ophthalmology: the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group. Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 2002;13(5):337-340. doi: 10.1097/00055735-200210000-00008

4. Gunton KB. Advances in amblyopia: what have we learned from PEDIG trials? Pediatrics. 2013;131(3):540-547. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-1622

5. Lambert SR, Aakalu VK, Hutchinson AK, et al. Intraocular lens implantation during early childhood: a report by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Ophthalmology. 2019;126(10):1454-1461. doi:10.1016/j.ophtha.2019.05.009

6. CITT-ART Investigator Group. Treatment of symptomatic convergence insufficiency in children enrolled in the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial–Attention & Reading Trial: a randomized clinical trial. Optom Vis Sci. 2019;96(11):825-835. doi:10.1097/OPX.0000000000001443

Related Videos
EyeCon 2024: Peter J. McDonnell, MD, marvels on mentoring, modern technology, and ophthalmology’s future
CIME 2024: Neda Shamie, MD, reports on a morning session packed with refractive surgery options, retina, glaucoma, and a 'mite-y' Demodex discussion
Highlights from the 18th Annual Controversies in Modern Eye Care Symposium: Arjan Hura, MD, on Refractive Surgery, Retina Care, and Record Attendance
© 2024 MJH Life Sciences

All rights reserved.