Background: Utility theory can be used to quantify dysfunction associated with various diseases and thus can represent a "hard" measure of quality of life. By determining utility values, one can compare the quality of life of patients with ocular disease to that of patients with non-ophthalmic problems. We performed a study to determine whether utility values from patients with ocular disease are associated with clinical variables, including visual acuity in the better-seeing eye, and to develop a mathematical method for converting visual acuity to utility value, if there is an association between the two.
Methods: Cross-sectional study. A total of 239 patients from a tertiary care retinal practice with various ocular conditions, including macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, were interviewed under standardized conditions to determine their utility values by the time trade-off technique. Visual acuity, duration of visual loss and number of concomitant conditions were also determined. Multiple linear regression was performed to determine which variables were associated with utility values.
Results: The mean acuity in the better-seeing eye was 0.479 (near 20/40 vision). The mean utility value was 0.72. Accordingly, the average patient in our series was willing to trade 2.8 of every 10 remaining years of life to obtain perfect vision in both eyes. Utility value was significantly associated with visual acuity in the better-seeing eye (F = 69.1, p < 0.001). Other variables were not significantly associated with utility value. The association with duration of visual loss approached statistical significance (p = 0.075). Utility values (U) for patients with ocular disease can be derived from the following formula: U = (0.374)(visual acuity in better-seeing eye) + 0.514.
Interpretation: Utility values from patients with ocular disease were strongly associated with visual acuity and could be estimated mathematically.