Routine preoperative medical testing for cataract surgery

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Mar 14;3(3):CD007293. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007293.pub3.


Background: Cataract surgery is practiced widely and substantial resources are committed to an increasing cataract surgical rate in developing countries. With the current volume of cataract surgery and the increases in the future, it is critical to optimize the safety and cost-effectiveness of this procedure. Most cataracts are performed on older individuals with correspondingly high systemic and ocular comorbidities. It is likely that routine preoperative medical testing will detect medical conditions, but it is questionable whether these conditions should preclude individuals from cataract surgery or change their perioperative management.

Objectives: (1) To investigate the evidence for reductions in adverse events through preoperative medical testing, and (2) to estimate the average cost of performing routine medical testing.

Search methods: We searched CENTRAL (which contains the Cochrane Eyes and Vision Group Trials Register) (The Cochrane Library 2011, Issue 12), MEDLINE (January 1950 to December 2011), EMBASE (January 1980 to December 2011), Latin American and Caribbean Literature on Health Sciences (LILACS) (January 1982 to December 2011), the metaRegister of Controlled Trials (mRCT) (, ( and the WHO International Clinical Trials Registry Platform (ICTRP) ( There were no date or language restrictions in the electronic searches for trials. The electronic databases were last searched on 9 December 2011. We used reference lists and the Science Citation Index to search for additional studies.

Selection criteria: We included randomized clinical trials in which routine preoperative medical testing was compared to no preoperative or selective preoperative testing prior to age-related cataract surgery.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed abstracts to identify possible trials for inclusion. For each included study, two review authors independently documented study characteristics, extracted data, and assessed methodological quality.

Main results: The three randomized clinical trials included in this review reported results for 21,531 total cataract surgeries with 707 total surgery-associated medical adverse events, including 61 hospitalizations and three deaths. Of the 707 medical adverse events reported, 353 occurred in the pretesting group and 354 occurred in the no testing group. Most events were cardiovascular and occurred during the intraoperative period. Routine preoperative medical testing did not reduce the risk of intraoperative (OR 1.02, 95% CI 0.85 to 1.22) or postoperative medical adverse events (OR 0.96, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.24) when compared to selective or no testing. Cost savings were evaluated in one study which estimated the costs to be 2.55 times higher in those with preoperative medical testing compared to those without preoperative medical testing. There was no difference in cancellation of surgery between those with preoperative medical testing and those with no or limited preoperative testing, reported by two studies.

Authors' conclusions: This review has shown that routine pre-operative testing does not increase the safety of cataract surgery. Alternatives to routine preoperative medical testing have been proposed, including self-administered health questionnaires, which could substitute for health provider histories and physical examinations. Such avenues may lead to cost-effective means of identifying those at increased risk of medical adverse events due to cataract surgery. However, despite the rare occurrence, adverse medical events precipitated by cataract surgery remain a concern because of the large number of elderly patients with multiple medical comorbidities who have cataract surgery in various settings. The studies summarized in this review should assist recommendations for the standard of care of cataract surgery, at least in developed settings. Unfortunately, in developing country settings, medical history questionnaires would be useless to screen for risk since few people have ever been to a physician, let alone been diagnosed with any chronic disease.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cataract Extraction / adverse effects*
  • Cataract Extraction / economics*
  • Cost Savings
  • Diagnostic Tests, Routine / economics*
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Postoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic