Objective: This study sought to define the nature and frequency of complications present 1 week after cataract surgery, to determine whether these complications are predictable, and to ascertain if patients undergoing cataract surgery require routine review at this time.
Design: Retrospective, noncomparative case series.
Participants: One thousand consecutive patients undergoing cataract removal by either phacoemulsification or extracapsular extraction at a large teaching hospital between January 1996 and May 1998. Patients with both complicated and uncomplicated histories and surgeries were included.
Main outcome measures: Nature and frequency of complications present 1 week after cataract surgery.
Results: At the routine 1-week visit, postoperative complications were observed in 41 of 1000 patients (4.1%). Twenty-one (51%) of these patients had a completely unremarkable history to that point, and whereas only four (19%) were symptomatic, 20 (95%) required a change to their postoperative management. The most significant unexpected complications were uveitis (seven cases), cystoid macular edema (four cases), and vitreous to the wound, exposed knots, and loose suture (one case of each). Complications were present in 20 of 257 (7.8%) patients with a preoperative or surgical risk factor, and there was a significant relationship between preoperative (P = 0.02), and combined preoperative and intraoperative risk factors (P = 0.001), and complications present at the 1-week review. The relationship between surgical risk factors and 1-week complications was not significant (P = 0.07). There were coexistent pathologic features in 19% of all eyes. Registrars performed 38% of surgeries, and 96% of cataracts were removed by phacoemulsification. Operative complications occurred in 6.7% of patients, most commonly a posterior capsule tear (4.4% of all cases). Complications were observed in 10% of eyes on the first postoperative day. Raised intraocular pressure was the complication in 88% of these patients.
Conclusions: This study provides an overview of modern cataract surgery in a large teaching hospital and indicates that abandonment of routine 1-week review may result in the failure to detect significant postoperative complications.