Objectives: To compare the results of phaco-emulsification cataract surgery and manual small-incision cataract surgery.
Methods: Consecutive patients aged >50 years undergoing surgery for age-related cataract were recruited into a randomised prospective clinical trial. Randomisation was done using opaque sequentially numbered envelopes opened by the surgeon immediately prior to surgery. The patients were seen after 1 day, 2 weeks, and 8 weeks. Outcome measures. The primary outcome measure was the uncorrected visual acuity at week 8. The secondary outcome measures were the uncorrected visual acuity on day 1, the best corrected visual acuity at week 8, the refraction at week 8, and the intra- and postoperative complications.
Results: One hundred patients were recruited into each arm of the study. There was no difference in the incidence of intra-ocular complications (p=0.19). There was no difference in the day 1 visual acuities (p=0.28). However, both the uncorrected and the corrected week 8 visual acuities were better in the eyes that had phaco-emulsification (p=0.02 and p=0.03), and there was less astigmatism (p=0.001) at week 8 in the eyes that had phaco-emulsification.
Conclusions: While manual small-incision surgery has been recommended as an acceptable alternative to phaco-emulsification in middle- and low-income countries, we have found that the results of phaco-emulsification are better. Where appropriate, consideration should be given to encouraging a transition to phaco-emulsification in our Vision 2020 programmes in Africa.