Having a newborn and managing all that comes with caring for that new little one is a big job. Add to that frequent trips to the ophthalmologist following a cataract surgeryâ€”yes, cataract surgery on a babyâ€”and you might have highly stressed parents. But the parents of little James and slightly older M.J. seem unfazed by all the medical appointments and additional duties that go along with caring for their young sons.
Both the boys, like 300 babies each year in the United States, were born with a cataract in one eye. In an infant, if the affected eye isnâ€™t surgically addressed within the first few months of life, that eye will not develop properly and vision can be permanently lost. These boys and their parents and 112 other young patients and their families have participated in the Infant Aphakia Treatment Study (IATS), a nationwide, multi-center clinical trial based at the Emory Eye Center. The 10-year study will evaluate whether replacing that lost lens with a contact lens or an intraocular lens (IOL) is preferable.
Adults typically get an IOL implant following cataract surgery. In the past, standard treatment was a contact lens for these babies. IATS randomized children into two groups: those who received IOL implants and those who received contact lenses. Those with IOLs also received glasses for residual vision correction. And both groups had daily patching of the unaffected eye to make sure that the newly corrected eye could become strong.
A team of professionals from Emory and beyond came together to provide the many layers of data necessary for the study. They included experts from the Rollins School of Public Health and the Department of Epidemiology and Data Coordinating Center in the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, as well as a visual acuity tester from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, who traveled to all sites to check these children.