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Hai C Lim, BL Quah, V Balakrishnan, HC Lim, V Tay, SC Emmanuel
Correspondence: Hai C Lim
Aim of the Study To evaluate the feasibility of an improved visual acuity screening program for Singapore 4-year-old preschool children and to draw up an appropriate referral criteria as well as evaluating the rates and outcomes of these referrals.
Method A total of 450 children aged 4 to 4 1/2 years, who attended 3 polyclinics of the Family Health Service (FHS) for their 4-year-old Developmental Health Screening during the study period from 1/4/1997 to 30/6/1997 were recruited for the study. Children who were tested with Snellen (or Sloan) visual acuity chart resulting in visual acuity of 6/9 or worse, or failed to pass the 3 mm medium plate at 30 cm distance (300 seconds of arc) in the Frisby Stereotest, or were found to have strabismus, or were untestable in either visual acuity test or stereotest were offered referral to ophthalmologists in the hospitals for specialist assessment.
Result 82.7% of the 450 children were successfully screened with Snellen (or Sloan) chart while 91.6% were successfully screened with Frisby Stereotest. In all, 180 children were evaluated by ophthalmologists. Majority of the children were referred because of their abnormal visual acuity test while only 2 children were referred for failing stereotest alone. Among the 180 children referred, 63 (35.0%) were found to have refractive errors for which spectacles were prescribed. Eight children had amblyopia and 2 children had strabismus which were not detected at the polyclinic screening. The untestable children evaluated had significantly higher abnormality rate (37.5%) than that of children who had 6/9 vision (8.8%) therefore they should be offered referral for further evaluation. There was high "refused referral" rate of 39.0%. Parents of children who were untestable or had 6/9 vision were found to be more likely to refuse offer of referral. If these two groups of children were excluded, the "refused referral" rate dropped to 13.3%. When the referral criteria for visual acuity was reset at 6/12 instead of 6/9, the referral rate dropped from 39.6% to a more manageable 26.7% and the positive predictive value improved from 35.4% to 48.3% and none of the children with amblyopia were missed being screened-out.
Conclusion The study confirmed the feasibility of doing visual acuity screening at 4 to 41/2 year-old. The referral criteria for abnormal visual acuity should be set at 6/12. The efficacy of adding Frisby stereotest needs further evaluation.
Keywords: Preschool, Visual acuity, Frisby stereotest, Referral criteria
Singapore Med J 2000; 41(6): 271-278