The population requirement for cataract extraction: a cross-sectional study

Eye (Lond). 2001 Dec;15(Pt 6):745-52. doi: 10.1038/eye.2001.242.


Purpose: To examine the distribution in the population of indications for cataract extraction in order to relate demand for this procedure to the capacity for satisfying it.

Methods: An age-stratified random population sample of 2783 individuals aged 55 years and over was taken from inner-city, urban and rural areas of Avon and Somerset. The requirement for cataract extraction was estimated on the basis of measures of vision-related quality of life, refracted visual acuity, and application of the Oxford Clinical Cataract Classification and Grading System. Data were also collected concerning suitability for surgery, including relative contraindications to surgery and whether participants considered their eyesight bad enough to merit surgery. Three sets of composite indications were defined.

Results: Estimated prevalent requirements for cataract extraction for the three sets of composite criteria were: 29 per 1000 aged over 55 years (95% CI 20-41) for the most inclusive criterion; 17 per thousand (95% CI 10-27) for the intermediate criterion; and 7 per thousand (95% CI 3-14) for the most stringent criterion. These rates are equivalent to a national prevalent requirement for England of 384,000 for the most inclusive criterion. If the approximately 15% of individuals whose desire or fitness for surgery was questionable are removed from this estimate, the prevalent requirement, including the backlog from previous unsatisfied demand, becomes 325,000 individuals.

Conclusions: The findings suggest only a modest imbalance between supply and demand for cataract surgery. In particular there was a very small prevalence of untreated severe cataract, less than the annual health service surgical capacity, suggesting that the current National Health Service surgical capacity is adequate for cases of severe cataract.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cataract / diagnosis
  • Cataract / epidemiology*
  • Cataract Extraction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • England / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Health Care Rationing
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sex Distribution