October 22, 2010

Cataract Surgery Equals Safer Drivers?

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- By the age of 65 nearly half the population has cataracts. It is the leading cause of visual loss in people 55 and older. Cataract surgery is the only cure for cataracts. It is a simple outpatient procedure. Cataract Surgery not only improves the vision and quality of life for older people, but is also a tactic in reducing car accidents.

Cataracts occur when the eye's crystalline lens becomes clouded and hardens. By age 60 many people have some lens opacity, and by 70 nearly all have cataract in one or both eyes. Surgical removal of cataract followed by implantation of intraocular lenses dramatically improves vision for most patients.

There is no question as to whether or not improved vision reduces car accident rates, but at what rate are car accidents reduced due to people having cataract surgery? Jonathon Ng, MD, a researcher, studied accident rates for Western Australia before and after cataract surgery on the first eye.

In Dr. Ng's study, 27,827 who had a cataract removed from one eye between 1997 and 2006 were included. Patient records were linked to the Western Australian Road Injury Database to identify those involved in a motor vehicle crash 12 months before and 12 months after cataract surgery. All of the patients were at least 60 years old. The majority of patients involved in car accidents were male aged 70-79 who lived in metropolitan areas.

"We found cataract surgery reduced the frequency of all crashes by 12.6% after accounting for other potential confounders, " Dr. Ng said, "and the cost savings from this reduction amounted to AUD $4.3 million. Each operation saved about $150 in crash costs. By including all crashes rather than just fatal and hospitalization crashes, all possible benefits of cataract surgery were taken into account."

In many countries patients who need cataract surgery often have to wait weeks or months, but this study suggests the sooner the better. The longer doctors wait to operate the more time available for a car accident due to vision loss to occur.

SOURCE: 2010 American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) "“ Middle East-Africa Council of Ophthalmology (MEACO) Joint Meeting, held in Chicago, Illinois October 15-19