In what is believed to be the first clinical trial comparing treatment regimens of atropine sulfate eye drops for the treatment of amblyopia, the investigators concluded that "there is no obvious advantage to the daily administration of atropine eye drops in either the speed of improvement or in the magnitude of improvement after four months of treatment," according to Michael Repka, M.D., the lead author of the study and a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Children's Center.
These findings are published by the Pediatric Eye Disease Investigator Group (PEDIG) in the November issue of Ophthalmology
In the study, 168 children up to 7 years old with moderate amblyopia were randomly assigned to getting atropine eye drops either daily or on Saturday and Sunday only. After four months of treatment, children following both regimens were able to read an average of 2.3 lines higher on a standard eye chart. Additionally, 47 percent of children receiving daily drops and 53 percent getting weekend drops had vision in the amblyopic eye improve to normal levels by the four-month mark. This considerable degree of improvement is similar to that accomplished with daily eye patching, the mainstay of amblyopia treatment, the researchers note.
"The daily burden of administering drops usually falls on the parent, and if weekend eye drops are a good option, the regimen not only relieves some of this burden but may also encourage compliance with the treatment," Repka adds. "Compliance is very important, since timely and successful treatment for amblyopia in childhood can prevent lifelong visual impairment."