Aim: To present the results of a rapid assessment of cataract surgical services in Chakwal District, Pakistan.
Methods: 40 clusters of 40 persons of 50 years and older (1600 eligible persons) were selected by systematic random sampling from the entire Chakwal district. A total of 1505 persons were examined (coverage 94%).
Results: Cataract is the major cause of bilateral blindness (46.5%). The age and sex adjusted prevalence of bilateral cataract blindness (VA < 3/60) in people of 50 years and older was 2.0% (95% CI: 1.2-3.2%), with a cataract surgical coverage of 92% for males and 73% for females, a significant difference. The prevalence of bilateral cataract and VA < 6/60 in persons of 50 years and older was 5.1% (95% CI: 3.6-6.9), an estimated total of 8833 persons. In this last group, the surgical coverage was 66% (persons) and 50% (eyes). Of the patients operated with IOL implantation, 12% could not see 6/60, while 36% of those operated without IOL could not see 6/60. 'No services' (18%) and 'cannot afford' (18%) were mentioned most as reasons why surgery had not been done, followed by 'no information' (13%), 'waiting for maturity' (12%) and 'old age, no need for surgery' (12%).
Conclusion: The number of cataract operations in Chakwal District can be increased by reducing the threshold for cataract surgery to VA < 6/60 or less. A special approach to operate more females may be required. Results from this survey can be used for a planning exercise to optimize eye care services in the district. Sustained efforts have to be made to increase the number of IOL surgeries, through making IOL surgery available locally at an affordable cost.