Global cost-effectiveness of cataract surgery

Ophthalmology. 2007 Sep;114(9):1670-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2006.12.013. Epub 2007 Mar 26.


Objective: To determine the cost-effectiveness of cataract surgery worldwide and to compare it with the cost-effectiveness of comparable medical interventions.

Design: Meta-analysis.

Participants: Approximately 12,000 eyes in the studies selected.

Methods: Articles were identified by searching the literature using the phrase cataract surgery, in combination with the terms cost, cost-effectiveness, and cost-utility. Terms used for the comparable medical interventions search included epileptic surgery, hip arthroplasty, knee arthroplasty, carpal tunnel surgery, and defibrillator implantation. The search was restricted to the years 1995 through 2006. Cataract surgery costs were converted to 2004 United States dollars (US$). Cost-utility was calculated using: (1) costs discounted at 3% for 12 years with a discounted quality-adjusted life years (QALY) gain of 1.25 years, and (2) costs discounted at 3% for 5 years with a discounted QALY gain of 0.143 years. The Cataract Surgery Affordability Index (CSAI) for each country was calculated by dividing the cost of cataract surgery by the gross national income per capita for the year 2004.

Main outcome measures: Cost-utility in 2004 US$/QALY and affordability of cataract surgery relative to the United States.

Results: Cost-utility values for cataract surgery (first eye) varied from $245 to $22,000/QALY in Western countries and from $9 to $1600 in developing countries. In developed countries, the cost-effectiveness of cataract surgery estimated by Choosing Interventions That Are Cost Effective ranged from, in international dollars (I$), I$730 to I$2400/disability-adjusted life years (DALY) averted, and I$90 to I$370/DALY averted in developing countries. The CSAI varied from 17% to 189% in developed countries and 29% to 133% in developing countries compared with the United States. The cost-utility of other comparable medical interventions was: epileptic surgery, $4000 to $20,000/QALY; hip arthroplasty, $2300 to $4800/QALY; knee arthroplasty, $6500 to $12,700/QALY; carpal tunnel surgery, $140 to $280/QALY; and defibrillator implantation, $700 to $23,000/QALY.

Conclusions: The cost-utility of cataract surgery varies substantially, depending how the benefit is assessed and on the duration of the assumed benefit. Cataract surgery is comparable in terms of cost-effectiveness to hip arthroplasty, is generally more cost-effective than either knee arthroplasty or defibrillator implantation, and is cost-effective when considered in absolute terms. The operation is considerably cheaper in Europe and Canada compared with the United States and is affordable in many developing countries, particularly India.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Cataract / economics*
  • Cataract Extraction / economics*
  • Cost of Illness
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Developed Countries / economics
  • Developing Countries / economics
  • Global Health*
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Models, Econometric
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years*
  • United States