In the next 10 years growing numbers of adults will be reaching the age at which senile cataracts typically develop. At the same time, pressure is strong to contain medical expenses. In order to formulate wise public policy in this area it is important to describe the effects of this treatment on the patient's quality of life. After a general discussion of research on patient-centered medical outcomes, 18 studies of patient-centered cataract surgery outcomes are reviewed. Then the findings, both direct outcomes (visual acuity, percentage visual impairment, complications, visual functioning, physical and mental functioning, general well-being, and satisfaction with care) as well as modifying factors (type of prosthesis, presurgical functional status, condition of fellow eye, other ocular pathology, comorbidity, age, gender, socioeconomic status, attitudes, and values) are summarized. The closing discussion summarizes findings, describes two studies underway, and suggests directions for future studies of cataract surgery effects.