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Purpose: The purpose of this study is to examine the cost effect of surgeon and patient discretion in regard to cataract surgery and how this affects population health care costs. Methods: A model of cataract progression was created from preexisting published data and combined with mortality data and Medicare cataract statistics to estimate the effect of mortality on decreasing the rate of cataract surgery if surgery was delayed until any cataract progression occurred.

Results: Five-year cataract progression rates were determined for a given patient age, sex, and type of cataract. Combined with 5-year death rates, delaying surgery until progression occurred resulted in a 1.1% decrease in surgery for nuclear sclerosis at age 45 that increased to a 33.8% decrease by age 90; a 1.5% decrease in surgery for cortical cataract at age 45 that increased to a 51.1% decrease by age 90; and a 1.6% decrease in surgery for posterior subcapsular at age 45 that increased to a 59.7% decrease by age 90. The effect of this decrease in surgical volume on Medicare was estimated to result in a 13% overall decrease in cataract surgery annually at a cost of ~$660 million dollars per year.

Conclusion: Overall, we conclude that surgeon and patient discretion in regard to cataract surgery has a substantial cost effect with the potential to reduce surgical volume by as much as 13% by the decision to delay surgery as a result of patient mortality.


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