Objective: To determine the effectiveness of prescribed part-time patching for treatment of intermittent exotropia (IXT) in children. Design: Multicenter, randomized clinical trial. Participants: Three hundred fifty-eight children 3 to <11 years of age with previously untreated (except for refractive correction) IXT and near stereoacuity of 400 seconds of arc or better were enrolled. Intermittent exotropia met the following criteria: (1) IXT at distance OR constant exotropia at distance and either IXT or exophoria at near; (2) exodeviation (tropia or phoria) of at least 15 prism diopters (PD) at distance or near by prism and alternate cover test (PACT); and (3) exodeviation of at least 10 PD at distance by PACT. Methods: Participants were assigned randomly either to observation (no treatment for 6 months) or to patching for 3 hours daily for 5 months, with a 1-month washout period of no patching before the 6-month primary outcome examination. Main Outcome Measures: The primary outcome was deterioration at either the 3-month or the 6-month follow-up visit, defined as: (1) constant exotropia measuring at least 10 PD at distance and near by simultaneous prism and cover test, and/or (2) near stereoacuity decreased by at least 2 octaves from baseline, both assessed by a masked examiner and confirmed by a retest. Participants who were prescribed any nonrandomized treatment without first meeting either deterioration criteria also were counted as having deteriorated. Results: Of the 324 participants (91%) completing the 6-month primary outcome examination, deterioration occurred in 10 of the 165 participants (6.1%) in the observation group (3 of these 10 started treatment without meeting deterioration criteria) and in 1 of the 159 participants (0.6%) in the part-time patching group (difference, 5.4%; lower limit of 1-sided exact 95% confidence interval, 2.0%; P = 0.004, 1-sided hypothesis test). Conclusions: Deterioration of previously untreated childhood IXT over a 6-month period is uncommon with or without patching treatment. Although there is a slightly lower deterioration rate with patching, both management approaches are reasonable for treating children 3 to 10 years of age with IXT.
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