Evaluation and Acceptability of a Simplified Test of Visual Function at Birth in a Limited-Resource Setting
Neurological examination, including visual fixation and tracking of a target, is routinely performed in the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit postnatal care units on the Thailand-Myanmar border. We aimed to evaluate a simple visual newborn test developed in Italy and performed by non-specialized personnel working in neonatal care units. An intensive training of local health staff in Thailand was conducted prior to performing assessments at 24, 48 and 72 hours of life in healthy, low-risk term singletons. The 48 and 72 hours results were then compared to values obtained to those from Italy. Parents and staff administering the test reported on acceptability. One hundred and seventy nine newborns, between June 2011 and October 2012, participated in the study. The test was rapidly completed if the infant remained in an optimal behavioral stage (7 +/- 2 minutes) but the test duration increased significantly (12 +/- 4 minutes, p < 0.001) if its behavior changed. Infants were able to fix a target and to discriminate a colored face at 24 hours of life. Horizontal tracking of a target was achieved by 96% (152/159) of the infants at 48 hours. Circular tracking, stripe discrimination and attention to distance significantly improved between each 24-hour test period. The test was easily performed by non-specialized local staff and well accepted by the parents. Healthy term singletons in this limited-resource setting have a visual response similar to that obtained to gestational age matched newborns in Italy. It is possible to use these results as a reference set of values for the visual assessment in Karen and Burmese infants in the first 72 hours of life. The utility of the 24 hours test should be pursued.