Prior reports indicate that about half of amblyopia patients successfully treated with occlusion subsequently require maintenance patching. This retrospective study was designed to discover what clinical characteristics might be associated with a stable outcome following primary occlusion. Included were 188 patients who: (1) had amblyopia related to strabismus, anisometropia or media opacity; and (2) were followed up for at least one year after successful primary occlusion. Patients who did not comply with treatment or who did not achieve equal vision were excluded. Their ages ranged from 2 to 119 months (mean 29 months). Eighty-eight patients (47%) who required no further occlusion were designated the clinically stable group (CSG). The remaining 100 (53%), who subsequently needed patching because of unequal acuities, constituted the maintenance patching group (MPG). CSG patients were older at the beginning (mean 33 months) and at the end (mean 40 months) of primary occlusion than were MPG patients (means 26 and 31 months). Primary occlusion was more likely to have been discontinued because of equal recognition acuities in CSG patients, while equal fixation behaviour or preferential looking was more likely in MPG patients. Distribution of diagnoses, severity of amblyopia at presentation, and length of follow-up were similar in the two groups. Visual outcomes at last follow-up were slightly better in the CSG (p = 0.002). We conclude that, in general, patching can be safely discontinued after the third birthday. Although follow-up after primary occlusion is important to ensure stable results in all patients, preverbal children are more likely to require maintenance patching.
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