Good unaided distance visual acuity (VA) is now a realistic expectation following cataract surgery and intraocular lens (IOL) implantation. Near vision, however, still requires additional refractive power, usually in the form of reading glasses. Multiple optic (multifocal) IOLs are available which claim to allow good vision at a range of distances. It is unclear whether this benefit outweighs the optical compromises inherent in multifocal IOLs.
To assess the visual effects of multifocal IOLs in comparison with the current standard treatment of monofocal lens implantation.
We searched CENTRAL (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Trials Register) (2016, Issue 5), Ovid MEDLINE, Ovid MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, Ovid MEDLINE Daily, Ovid OLDMEDLINE (January 1946 to June 2016), Embase (January 1980 to June 2016), the ISRCTN registry (www.isrctn.com/editAdvancedSearch), ClinicalTrials.gov (www.clinicaltrials.gov), and the World Health Organization (WHO) International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) (www.who.int/ictrp/search/en). We did not use any date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. We last searched the electronic databases on 13 June 2016.
All randomised controlled trials comparing a multifocal IOL of any type with a monofocal IOL as control were included. Both unilateral and bilateral implantation trials were included. We also considered trials comparing multifocal IOLs with "monovision" whereby one eye is corrected for distance vision and one eye corrected for near vision.
We used standard methodological procedures expected by Cochrane. We assessed the 'certainty' of the evidence using GRADE.
We found 20 eligible trials that enrolled 2230 people with data available on 2061 people (3194 eyes). These trials were conducted in Europe (13), China (three), USA (one), Middle East (one), India (one) and one multicentre study in Europe and the USA. Most of these trials compared multifocal with monofocal lenses; two trials compared multifocal lenses with monovision. There was considerable variety in the make and model of lenses implanted. Overall we considered the trials at risk of performance and detection bias because it was difficult to mask participants and outcome assessors. It was also difficult to assess the role of reporting bias.There was moderate-certainty evidence that the distance acuity achieved with multifocal lenses was not different to that achieved with monofocal lenses (unaided VA worse than 6/6: pooled RR 0.96, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.89 to 1.03; eyes = 682; studies = 8). People receiving multifocal lenses may achieve better near vision (RR for unaided near VA worse than J3/J4 was 0.20, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.58; eyes = 782; studies = 8). We judged this to be low-certainty evidence because of risk of bias in the included studies and high heterogeneity (I(2) = 93%) although all included studies favoured multifocal lenses with respect to this outcome.People receiving multifocal lenses may be less spectacle dependent (RR 0.63, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.73; eyes = 1000; studies = 10). We judged this to be low-certainty evidence because of risk of bias and evidence of publication bias (skewed funnel plot). There was also high heterogeneity (I(2) = 67%) but all studies favoured multifocal lenses. We did not additionally downgrade for this.Adverse subjective visual phenomena were more prevalent and more troublesome in participants with a multifocal IOL compared with monofocals (RR for glare 1.41, 95% CI 1.03 to 1.93; eyes = 544; studies = 7, low-certainty evidence and RR for haloes 3.58, 95% CI 1.99 to 6.46; eyes = 662; studies = 7; moderate-certainty evidence).Two studies compared multifocal lenses with monovision. There was no evidence for any important differences in distance VA between the groups (mean difference (MD) 0.02 logMAR, 95% CI -0.02 to 0.06; eyes = 186; studies = 1), unaided intermediate VA (MD 0.07 logMAR, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.10; eyes = 181; studies = 1) and unaided near VA (MD -0.04, 95% CI -0.08 to 0.00; eyes = 186; studies = 1) compared with people receiving monovision. People receiving multifocal lenses were less likely to be spectacle dependent (RR 0.40, 95% CI 0.30 to 0.53; eyes = 262; studies = 2) but more likely to report problems with glare (RR 1.41, 95% CI 1.14 to 1.73; eyes = 187; studies = 1) compared with people receiving monovision. In one study, the investigators noted that more people in the multifocal group underwent IOL exchange in the first year after surgery (6 participants with multifocal vs 0 participants with monovision).
Multifocal IOLs are effective at improving near vision relative to monofocal IOLs although there is uncertainty as to the size of the effect. Whether that improvement outweighs the adverse effects of multifocal IOLs, such as glare and haloes, will vary between people. Motivation to achieve spectacle independence is likely to be the deciding factor.