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The Mallett Unit is a clinical test designed to detect the fixation disparity that is most likely to occur in the presence of a decompensated heterophoria. It measures the associated phoria, which is the "aligning prism" needed to nullify the subjective disparity. The technique has gained widespread acceptance within professions such as optometry, for investigating suspected cases of decompensating heterophoria; it is, however, rarely used by orthoptists and ophthalmologists. The aim of this study was to investigate whether fusional vergence reserves, measured routinely by both orthoptists and ophthalmologists to detect heterophoria decompensation, were correlated with aligning prism (associated phoria) in a normal clinical population. Aligning prism (using the Mallett Unit) and fusional vergence reserves (using a prism bar) were measured in 500 participants (mean 41.63 years; standard deviation 11.86 years) at 40 cm and 6 m. At 40 cm a strong correlation (p<0.001) between base in aligning prism (Exo FD) and positive fusional reserves was found. Of the participants with zero aligning prism 30% had reduced fusional reserves. At 6 m a weak correlation between base out aligning prism (Eso FD) and negative fusional reserves was found to break (p = 0.01) and to recovery (p = 0.048). Of the participants with zero aligning prism 12% reported reduced fusional reserves. For near vision testing, the strong inverse correlation between base in aligning prism (Exo FD) and fusional vergence reserves supports the notion that both measures are indicators of decompensation of heterophoria. For distance vision testing and for those patients reporting zero aligning prism further research is required to determine why the relationship appears to be weak/non-existent?


Miriam L Conway, Jennifer Thomas, Ahalya Subramanian. Is the aligning prism measured with the Mallett unit correlated with fusional vergence reserves? PloS one. 2012;7(8):e42832

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PMID: 22905174

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