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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 54-61

Pediatric Cataract: How important is the age of intervention?

Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology, Drashti Netralaya, Dahod, Gujarat, India

Date of Web Publication10-Jan-2014

Correspondence Address:
Mehul A Shah
Drashti Netralaya, Nr. GIDC, Chakalia Road, Dahod - 389 151, Gujarat
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DOI: 10.4103/1858-540X.124825

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Purpose: To study the effect of age of intervention on visual outcome following treatment of pediatric patients with cataract. Materials and Methods: This is a Prospective cohort study. We studied a consecutive series of pediatric patients with congenital, developing, or traumatic cataracts who underwent surgery between January, 1999 and April, 2012 at our center. Patient demographics, cataract type, presenting symptoms, surgical intervention, postoperative visual acuity, and follow-up refractive changes were recorded. Results: In total, 1305 eyes of 815 children were included: Unilateral cataracts were present in 786 (60.2%) eyes. There were 610 (46.7%) traumatic and 695 (53.3%) non-traumatic cases. Ages at surgery ranged from 1 to 215 months. Eyes were grouped by the age of surgical intervention performed: Group 1, </= 5 years including 286 (21.9%) eyes, and Group 2, >5 years, including 1019 (78.1%) eyes either by anterior or pars plana route ΁ IOL placement. The mean follow-up time was 117 days. Ultimately, 173 (13.3%) Group 1 and 442 (33.9%) Group 2 patients achieved a visual acuity better than 6/24 (P < 0.001). Age at intervention was significantly related (all P < 0.001) to visual outcome. Conclusions: Age of intervention affects visual outcome significantly (P < 0.001).

Keywords: Age of intervention, congenital cataract, developmental cataract, pediatric cataract, traumatic cataract, visual outcome

How to cite this article:
Shah MA, Shah SM, Patel KD, Rehman RM. Pediatric Cataract: How important is the age of intervention?. Sudanese J Ophthalmol 2013;5:54-61

How to cite this URL:
Shah MA, Shah SM, Patel KD, Rehman RM. Pediatric Cataract: How important is the age of intervention?. Sudanese J Ophthalmol [serial online] 2013 [cited 2021 Dec 3];5:54-61. Available from: https://www.sjopthal.net/text.asp?2013/5/2/54/124825

  Introduction Top

Childhood cataracts are responsible for 5 to 20% of blindness in children worldwide and for an even higher percentage of childhood visual impairment in developing countries. [1],[2],[3],[4],[5]

The overall incidence of clinically significant cataracts (unilateral or bilateral) in childhood is unknown, but has been estimated to be as high as 0.4%. [6],[7] The prevalence of childhood cataract varies from 1.2 to 6.0 cases per 10,000 infants. Pediatric cataracts are responsible for more than one million cases of childhood blindness in Asia. In developing countries, such as India, 7.4 to 15.3% of childhood blindness is due to cataracts. [8],[9] Internationally, the incidence is unknown. Although the World Health Organization and other health organizations have made outstanding progress in vaccination and disease prevention, the rate of congenital cataracts remains much higher in underdeveloped countries.

The visual results of cataract surgery in children have generally been poorer than in adults. [1],[2],[3],[6],[10],[11],[12],[13] This difference is due, in part, to the various types of amblyopia that develop in children with cataracts, the association of nystagmus with early onset cataracts, and the presence of other ocular abnormalities that adversely affect vision in eyes with developmental lens opacities. Since the introduction of the aspiration technique for cataract removal by Scheie in 1960, [14] surgical procedures for the removal of the lens in childhood have improved [15],[16] and earlier surgery for congenital cataracts has been encouraged. [17],[18],[19]

Any opacification of the lens and its capsule in children is defined as a pediatric cataract. Pediatric cataracts can be unilateral or bilateral. They can be subdivided based on morphology, as well as aetiology. Morphologically, the most common type of pediatric cataract is the zonular cataract, characterized by opacification of a discrete region of the lens. This type includes nuclear, lamellar, sutural, and capsular cataracts. [6],[10]

Polar cataracts are opacities of the subcapsular cortex in the polar regions of the lens. Almost all (90%) anterior polar cataracts are unilateral; bilateral anterior polar cataracts are commonly asymmetric and typically do not progress over time. Posterior polar cataracts are often small, but even a small posterior polar cataract can impair vision. A distinctive type of posterior polar cataract is the posterior lentiglobus or lenticonus, in which a protrusion of the posterior capsule is present. Membranous cataracts form when the lens, cortex, and nucleus are partially or completely reabsorbed, leaving a small amount of opacified lens material between the anterior and the posterior lens capsules.

Persistent hyperplastic primary vitreous (PHPV) is usually a unilateral ocular condition associated with a retro lenticular fibrovascular membrane. Although the lenses in most eyes with PHPV are initially clear, they often become opacified over time. Even when the lens remains clear, the retro lenticular membrane is usually sufficiently opaque to affect vision.

In terms of aetiology, pediatric cataracts occur due to genetic diseases, metabolic diseases, maternal infections, and trauma, and can also be idiopathic. The aetiology of cataracts can be established in up to half of the children with bilateral cataracts, but in only a small proportion of children with unilateral cataracts.

Congenital cataracts are one of the most common causes of treatable blindness in children, particularly in developing countries. [1] A recent report indicated that infants with bilateral congenital cataract who underwent early surgery (within 1 month of birth) and received appropriate optical rehabilitation could obtain visual acuity of better than 0.4 and could even achieve stereopsis. [2] However, because of typically relatively late detection and diagnosis, the nonavailability of facilities for infant anesthesia, and poor compliance with long-term follow-up, the visual prognosis for infants with congenital cataract in developing countries differs markedly from that in industrialized countries. Visual loss is primarily attributable to amblyopia, most importantly, to "stimulus-form deprivation amblyopia," with the additional factor of ocular rivalry in unilateral disease. Thus, improved understanding of the critical periods of visual development has resulted in to surgical intervention for dense cataracts being deemed necessary within the first 3 months of life, possibly as early as the first 6 weeks in unilateral disease. Clinical factors believed to be important to visual outcome in children include age at diagnosis and surgery, type of refractive correction, type of cataract surgery, compliance with occlusion regimen, aetiology of the cataract, presence of non-ophthalmic disorders, development of capsular opacity or secondary membrane, and serious ocular postoperative complications.

Primary posterior capsulotomy and anterior vitrectomy are considered "routine surgical steps," especially in younger children. Previously, preparation for secondary intraocular lens (IOL) implantation at a later date was not considered. However, widespread acceptance of IOL implantation in children has caused this to be revised. Thus, management of the posterior capsule should eliminate or delay the formation of visual axis opacity and yet leave sufficient capsular support to achieve the desired "in-the-bag" (or ciliary sulcus) fixation of an IOL. Even when IOL implantation is not performed with the primary procedure, it is important to treat and prepare the eye in such a way that secondary implantation can be achieved subsequently.

  Materials and Methods Top

The study was approved by the hospital ethics committee. This was a prospective hospital-based study at a tertiary care eye hospital in western India over 20 years, from January, 1992 to April, 2012. All pediatric patients (0 to 18) with cataracts presenting to our department during this period were enrolled in the study.

Patient primary details and history were documented using a pre-tested online format. Ocular trauma details were documented with an online world eye injury registry form.

Vision was checked according to the American Academy of Paediatrics vision check protocol. Both eyes were assessed. Anterior segment examinations were conducted using a slit lamp bio-microscope. The pupils were dilated.

Ocular pressure was measured using a Perkin's hand-held tonometer. If this was not possible, the pressure was measured under general anesthesia. This procedure was omitted for eyes with open globe injuries. The posterior segment of the eye was evaluated with the help of an indirect ophthalmoscope and a +20 D lens and an ultrasound 'B' scan if the media was not clear.

The surgical technique was decided based on aetiology, cataract morphology, and the position of the lens. Surgery was done by the anterior or pars plana route. Anterior route surgeries were performed using a phacoemulsifier or manual suction. Membranectomies and lensectomies were performed using a pneumatic cutter. Intraocular lenses were not implanted in patients younger than 1.5 years. Children below this age underwent lensectomies/membranectomies; secondary implant placement was conducted later. Patients were rehabilitated using glasses or contact lenses in-between. For IOL power calculations, we followed published guidelines. [20],[21]

In cases of globe rupture, open globe injury wound repair was done as a first stage and the cataract was operated on at a second sitting. All steps of the surgical techniques were documented using a pretested online format.

All traumatic cataract patients without infection were treated with systemic corticosteroids. In all patients with inflammation and membranous cataracts, a primary posterior capsulotomy and anterior vitrectomy were performed.

Postoperative follow-up was performed according to a pretested online format, including vision, anterior and posterior segment findings, and intraocular pressure, over an appropriate follow-up schedule. Glasses were prescribed when the media were clear and the final prescription was at 6 weeks post-operation. Patients underwent orthoptic evaluations and amblyopic patients were treated with appropriate patching. Aphakic patients were rehabilitated using glasses or contact lenses. Patients were evaluated for stereopsis and contrast sensitivity using a Titmus vision tester or a Titmus fly test.

Patients developing later cataracts underwent membranectomies and vitrectomies as required. For children operated on below the age of 1.5 years, secondary lens implantation was performed after they reached 2 years of age.

Data were analyzed using the SPSS software (ver. 19.0; SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL, USA). Univariate parametrical analyses were used. A P-value of < 0.05 was considered to indicate statistical significance.

  Results Top

The enrolled patient group consisted of 1305 eyes in 805 pediatric patients with cataracts. There were 858 (65.7%) males and 447 (34.3%) females [Table 1]. The mean patient age was 9.5±4.7 years (range, 0-18). Of the cataracts, 610 (46.7%) were traumatic and 695 (53.3%) were congenital or developmental. Of the eyes, 1117 (85.6%; [Table 2]) had diminished vision and 188 (14.4%) presented with leukocoria. The follow-up period was 1 to 3084 days (mean, 117.4 days).
Table 1: Age and sex distribution

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Table 2: Aetiology of cataract

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In the non-traumatic group, eyes were further subdivided into congenital (293, 22.5%), developmental (373, 28.6%), and secondary cataracts (29, 2.2%; [Table 2], [Table 3]. According to the statistical analysis, the demographic factors analyzed, including socioeconomic status (74.5% were of lower socioeconomic status) and residence (92% were from rural areas), had no significant relationship with the final visual acuity.

Regarding patient entry, 9.2% of the patients had received primary treatment prior to reaching our center; this was not associated with a significant difference in the final visual outcome (P = 0.2). Of the total patients enrolled, 26.4% entered via an outreach department, and 71% were self-referred.

Among the injuries, 30% were reported within the first 24 hours, 30% were reported within 3 days, and 33.9% were reported within 1 month. A wooden stick was the most common object causing eye injury (51.4%). Neither the injury-causing object (P = 0.3), nor the activity at the time of injury (P = 0.3) was significantly associated with the final visual acuity.
Table 3: Comparison of visual outcome according to aetiology

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A comparison of pre- and post-operative visual acuities showed that treatment significantly improved visual acuity [Table 4]; P < 0.001, Pearson's χ2 test; P = 0.001, ANOVA). An intraocular lens was implanted in 1205 cases (92.3%) and was significantly associated with improved visual acuity (P < 0.001).
Table 4: Comparison of visual outcome according to pre operative visual acuity

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When we compared visual outcome between the traumatic and non-traumatic groups, the traumatic group did significantly better [Table 5]; P < 0.001). Final visual acuity following cataract surgery was >6/60 in 399 eyes (56.8%) and ≥6/12 in 105 eyes (15.1%) in the non-traumatic group. In the traumatic group, the visual acuity was >6/60 in 333 eyes (54.6%) and ≥6/12 in 193 eyes (31.6%). The difference between the groups was significant (P < 0.001). In total, 296 (22.6%) eyes had a final visual acuity ≥6/12 and 728 (57.8%) eyes had a final visual acuity >6/60 [Table 5].

The follow-up period ranged from 30 to 3084 days, with a mean of 117.4 days.

We have compared visual outcome according to the age of intervention, and we found significant difference better results achieved in age range between 6 to 18, may be because of traumatic cases in this age group [Table 6] and [Table 7], P = 0.000).

We have compared visual outcome amongst traumatic and non-traumatic groups [Table 5].
Table 5: Comparison of visual outcome amongst traumatic and non traumatic group

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Table 6: Comparison of visual outcome according to age of intervention

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Table 7: Comparison of visual outcome amongst intervention under and above 5 years

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We have compared visual outcome amongst traumatic and non-traumatic groups above and under 5 years [Table 8] and [Table 9]. We have found that under 5 years, non-traumatic group is doing well and above 5 traumatic group is doing well (P = 0.000).
Table 8: Visual outcome according to traumatic and non-traumatic group above 5 years

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Table 9: Visual outcome according to traumatic and non traumatic group under 5 years

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We have also compared groups above and under 5 years amongst age sub groups [Table 10] and [Table 11] and found early intervention better in </= 5 group, and late intervention better in above 5 group.
Table 10: Visual outcome according to age group above 5 years

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Table 11: Visual outcome according to age groups under 5 years

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We have compared traumatic and non-traumatic groups >5 group [Table 12] and [Table 13] and found that interventions better in done between 11 to 18 years.
Table 12: Visual outcome in non traumatic group above 5 years

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Table 13: Visual outcome in traumatic group above 5 years

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Similarly, when compared traumatic and non-traumatic group, </=5 group [Table 14] and [Table 15] found significant difference if intervention is early in non-traumatic group, and no significant difference in traumatic group.
Table 14: Visual outcome in non traumatic group under 5 years

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Table 15: Visual outcome in traumatic group under 5 years

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We have summarized these findings in [Table 16].
Table 16: Summary

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  Discussion Top

The enrolled patient group consisted of 1305 eyes of 805 pediatric patients. The mean patient age was 9.5 ± 4.7 years. The mean age in another report was 7.1 years. [22] Age at intervention had a significant effect on visual outcome [Table 4]. Other investigators have reported similar findings. [23]

The incidence of traumatic cataracts in children was higher than that reported previously. [24] In a comparison of the traumatic and non-traumatic groups, the group with traumatic cataracts did significantly better, likely attributable to the fully developed visual system in children above 5 years of age versus children with local or systemic anomalies in cases of congenital or developmental cataracts. With regard to unilateral and bilateral cases, we found that unilateral cataracts did better, in contrast to some other reports [Table 7], [10] again likely attributable to the large number of traumatic cases.

A prospective study of the outcome of surgery for cataracts in the pediatric age group has several limitations. Although we believe that all patients included in the study had congenital, developmental, or traumatic lens opacities, not all patients were seen and followed by us from the time of birth. In particular, some patients with lamellar cataracts were not seen by us until they were several years old.

Regarding timing of intervention, our study suggests that visual outcome is affected by the age of intervention, aetiology, and laterality. Traumatic cataracts did well with late interventions [Table 8]. Patients in the non-traumatic group did well in the case of type 1 morphology if the intervention was early and in the case of type 2 morphology (partial opacity), if the intervention was late. In cases of unilateral cataracts, sooner is better. These findings were similar in the non-traumatic group. [10] For the traumatic group, the interval between injury and intervention is important. [25] On the other hand, their lens opacities were characteristic of congenital lamellar cataracts, [10] a type of cataract we have not found to be acquired postnatally in otherwise healthy children.

The surgeries performed in our series of patients were not identical in all cases. For example, the posterior capsule was handled differently at different times during the study period. Additionally, the timing of surgery was not dictated by an established protocol, but was determined by the age at the time of referral and by the visual status of individual patients. Finally, some observations that would have been useful for analysis were missing from the records because of loss to follow-up.

Nevertheless, we feel that some useful observations can be made on the basis of this review of patients. There seem to be two general categories of patients with congenital and developmental cataracts. One is characterized by extensive lens opacity and an early, obvious reduction in vision. These patients, who come for cataract surgery in the first year of life, often have smaller-than-normal corneal diameters, poorly dilating pupils, and a vulnerability to delayed postoperative open-angle glaucoma. The other category includes patients with partial, often lamellar lens opacities, corneas of normal size, and a remarkably good visual prognosis. Lamellar cataract did significantly better when compared with other morphologies in the non-traumatic group, similar to other studies. [10] Of the patients in the first category, 222 (17%) developed nystagmus at 2-4 months of age, which was accompanied by a reduction in visual acuity despite a good anatomical result from surgery.

Our study suggesting various outcomes according to age (>5 and </=5) similar to study by robb, [10] our study reflects other side, according to aetiology if traumatic intervention later better and if type 1 cataract in congenital variety early intervention and type 2 variety later intervention is better [Table 12], [Table 13], [Table 14], [Table 15], [Table 16].

Early surgery, within the time frame indicated in (10), did not appear to abort the development of nystegmus, although some investigators have suggested that this might be so based on their experience with small numbers of patients. [10],[18],[19],[26] It is possible that even earlier surgery than we have done, undertaken in the first few weeks of life, would have a more favorable influence on the development of nystagmus. On the other hand, the nystegmus may be a manifestation of a more general ophthalmic disorder that would not be influenced by the timing of surgery. Further evaluation of this question will require a randomized controlled study, since patient selection could influence the prevalence of nystegmus in any small series of patients, especially if all patients with congenital cataracts, regardless of type, were subjected to early surgery. Development of open-angle glaucoma is a known complication of early cataract surgery. [27]

We are not aware about any study which has specifically studied this aspect except small numbers. [10],[28],[29]

The visual prognosis in this group of patients, whose surgery is usually performed after 5 years of age, at a time when increasing visual needs begin to exceed the limits imposed by 507 Bilateral Congenital Cataracts the lens opacities, is excellent. The only patients in this second general category who fell short of this high expectation were a few who also had the unfortunate combination of nystegmus and high myopia.

Treatment of strabismic amblyopia following bilateral congenital cataract surgery is useful, although the ocular' misalignment is sometimes hard to identify, and the amblyopia may be profound by the time it is recognized. [10]

Deprivational amblyopia due to asymmetry of cataracts from the outset is very difficult to reverse, similar to the situation in patients with monocular congenital cataracts. An early start of treatment would seem to be the only hope of success in these asymmetrical cases. [10]

  Conclusion Top

Age of intervention affects visual outcome significantly and our conclusions out of this study are-

  • Aetiologically if cataract is of traumatic variety, late intervention age (11 to 18 years) has better outcome (P = 0.000)
  • Non-traumatic group cataract morphology is type-1; early age intervention has better outcome (P = 0.000)
  • Non-traumatic group cataract morphology is type-2 with partial opacities; late age interventions has better outcome (P = 0.000)

  References Top

1.Long V, Chen S, Hatt S. Surgical interventions for bilateral congenital cataract. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2006;3:CD003171.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Zimmermann-Paiz, MA, Quiroga-Reyes CR. Pediatric cataract in a developing country: Retrospective review of 328 cases. Arq Bras Oftalmol 2011;74:163-5.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Gogate P, Kalua K. Blindness in childhood in developing countries: Time for a reassessment? PLoS Med 2009;12:e1000177.  Back to cited text no. 3
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6.Owens WC, Hughes WF. Results of surgical treatment of congenital cataract. Arch Ophthalmol 1948;39:339-50.  Back to cited text no. 6
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14.Scheie HG. Aspiration of congenital or soft cataracts: A new technique. Am J Ophthalmol 1960;50:1048-56.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Taylor D. Choice of surgical technique in the management of congenital cataract. Trans Ophthalmol Soc UK 1981;101:114-7.  Back to cited text no. 15
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17.Rogers GL, Tishler CL, Tsou BH. Visual acuities in infants with congenital cataracts operated on prior to 6 months of age. Arch Ophthalmol 1981;99:999-1003.  Back to cited text no. 17
18.Gelbart SS, Hoyt CS, Jastrebski G. Long-term visual results in bilateral congenital cataracts. Am J Ophthalmol 1982;93:615-21.  Back to cited text no. 18
19.Taylor D, Vaegan, Morris JA. Amblyopia in bilateral infantile and juvenile cataract: Relationship to timing of treatment. Trans Ophthalmol Soc UK 1979;99:170-5.  Back to cited text no. 19
20.Trivedi RH, Wilson ME, Reardon W. Accuracy of the Holladay 2 intraocular lens formula for pediatric eyes in the absence of preoperative refraction. J Cataract Refract Surg 2011;37:1239-43.  Back to cited text no. 20
21.McClatchey SK. Choosing IOL power in pediatric cataract surgery. Int Ophthalmol Clin 2011;50:115-23.  Back to cited text no. 21
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25.Shah MA, Shah SM, Shah SB, Patel UA. Effect of interval between time of injury and timing of intervention on final visual outcome in cases of traumatic cataract. Eur J Ophthalmol 2011;21:760-5.  Back to cited text no. 25
26.Hochstrasser P, Gloor B. Surgical results of uni- and bilateral congenital and traumatic cataract in infancy to adolescence. Klin Monbl Augenheilkd 1994;204:274-8.  Back to cited text no. 26
27.Keech RV, Tongue AC. Complications after surgery for congenital and infantile cataracts. Am J Ophthalmol 1989;108:136-41.  Back to cited text no. 27
28.You C, Wu X, Zhang Y, Dai Y, Huang Y, Xie L. Visual impairment and delay in presentation for surgery in Chinese pediatric patients with cataract. Ophthalmology 2011;118:17-23.  Back to cited text no. 28
29.Acuna OM, Yen KG. Outcome and prognosis of pediatric patients with delayed diagnosis of open-globe injuries. J Pediatr Ophthalmol Strabismus 2009;46:202-7.  Back to cited text no. 29


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5], [Table 6], [Table 7], [Table 8], [Table 9], [Table 10], [Table 11], [Table 12], [Table 13], [Table 14], [Table 15], [Table 16]


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