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Alaska Blind Child Discovery

A cooperative, charitable research project to vision screen every preschool Alaskan

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"What Should Pediatricians Use / Purchase for "State-of-the-Art" 2016 Vision Screening?"
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has added to its guidelines for pediatric vision screening a Position Paper recommending Photoscreening for early detection of conditions that lead to treatable blindness due to Amblyopia.
The AAP and the AAPOS Vision Screen Committee do NOT recommend merely a single screening for pre-schoolers, rather it recommends a series of age-appropriate guidelines (AAP) combined with appropriate history and physical findings. New AAP screening guidelines are in the works.
In addition to newborn red reflex testing and infant fixation / cover testing, Bruckner Testing is a useful tool for an experienced pediatrician. As Kirk in Alaska and Sean Donahue demonstrated with over 100,000 real community MTI photoscreenings, specific early toddler photosreening might actually "prevent" amblyopia in many cases. Carefully interpreted photoscreening and remote autorefraction in toddlers can identify one of the most important, and occult amblyopiagenic factors: inability to sufficiently accommodate in one or both eyes, in various meridia. Pediatricians can now bill for objective photoscreening with CPT 99177 or 99174. In Alaska and Iowa statewide experience, objective screening works very well in community screening from age 1 to age 7 years and takes only 20-30 seconds per child.
Objective testing includes remote autorefractors and Photoscreeners. Current models have internal or internet interpretation allowing prompt and valid results. Each photoscreener REQUIRES the selection of instrument referral criteria chosen to maximize sensitivity and specifity for your screening environment. ABCD has validated all the most recent models and has the following impressions:

For instant refractive and strabismus estimates- Plusoptix S12 user-friendly and has the most validation research experience, Welch Allyn SPOT- wide range of refractive estimates and some emerging validation, 2WIN recent model still in early calibration phase by ABCD and some in Italy. Each of these require the patient sit still and focus on the camera for 2-5 seconds. (CPT 99177)

For wiggly and inattentive children, the iScreen has near-instantaneous sequential flash and therefore is best for special needs practices. iScreen requires internet download for computer + expert interpretation (CPT 99174).

The RebiScan uses novel technology to seek reflected birefringence coming from exactly aligned (foveating) eyes. it may be best at early determination of the most difficult types of amblyopia allowing very early treatment and better chances of success. ABCD hopes to validate the Rebiscan soon. Another novel photoscreener is the Gobiquity SmartPhone app- very portable- with coordinated acuity screen and in-phone interpretation.

Which is better- photoscreening or acuity screening? BAD QUESTION says ABCD! Rather- which screening should be used at which age? We recommend AAP Guidelines modified with photoscreening age 1-2 years, again at 3-4 years and then Kindergarten entry and developmental delay. Surround, randomized acuity screening with monocularity assured by patching follows. Manifest strabismus should be urgently referred by observant parents to atuned pediatricians- ABCD does not recommend stereo screening for strabismic amblyopia- and considers isolated, small-angle strabismic amblyopia so rare that most tests lack specificity to effectively target this entity- other than Rebiscan.
Subjective testing of acuity can be done on a few children three years or younger, however the ability of Pediatrician technicians to do this test well is more age-dependent. Unless we better educate pediatricians and improve the skills of their technicians, objective testing will out-perform acuity testing in pre-K; this is the motivation behind our own "See by Three" Projects. There are some good points about characteristics of good acuity tests; it is amazing to find how poor quality charts some "good" pediatricians are using! Another critical point is assuring monocular testing. This can be assured by patching the non-tested eye in the majority of children who accept this method. Special broadly occluding spectacle frames work for finicky patch kids. Acuity testing can seek a threshold for each eye and refer pre-K unable to achieve 20/40 or two line difference; this takes about 3-7 minutes to screen a child. Another good method is to screen only a critical line of 20/40 for each eye; this takes 2-4 minutes per child. Pediatricians can, and should, charge for monocular acuity testing using 99173.
Acuity testing becomes faster, and more efficient in older children but still MUST assure monocularity.
Pediatricians might purchase a computer, wall-mounted, multi-optotype remotely-operated screening system like we have in our lanes for over $3000, or illuminated wall charts for $100-$500, or flip charts for $20-$50. There are child-friendly computer-game acuity tests that might appeal to many pediatricians. Consistent critical line charts can be obtained free online, so no American child should "go blind" for lack of a chart.
(Financial Disclosure: ABCD received discounted vision screening materials / technology from many of the manufacturers mentioned but receives no direct payment to ABCD workers)
Robert Arnold, MD
Alaska Children's EYE & Strabismus, Anchorage

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