Cost-effectiveness of femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery versus phacoemulsification cataract surgery

Ophthalmology. 2014 Jan;121(1):10-16. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2013.07.056. Epub 2013 Oct 10.


Purpose: To perform a comparative cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) of femtosecond laser-assisted cataract surgery (LCS) and conventional phacoemulsification cataract surgery (PCS) DESIGN: Retrospective CEA using computer-based econometric modeling.

Participants: Hypothetical cohort of patients undergoing cataract surgery in the better eye based on a review of the current literature and our direct experience using LCS.

Methods: A cost-effectiveness decision tree model was constructed to analyze the cost-effectiveness of LCS compared with PCS. Complication rates of cataract surgery were obtained from a review of the current literature to complete the cohort of patients and outcomes. This data was incorporated with time trade-off utility values converted from visual acuity outcomes.

Main outcome measures: Improvements in best-corrected visual acuity obtained from the literature were used to calculate the increase in quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) in a hypothetical cohort between 6 months and 1 year after cataract surgery. This was combined with approximate costs in a cost-utility analysis model to determine the incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs).

Results: Based on the simulated complication rates of PCS and LCS and assuming resultant visual acuity outcome improvement of 5% in uncomplicated cases of LCS, the cost-effectiveness (dollars spent per QALY) gained from LCS was not cost-effective at $92 862 Australian Dollars. The total QALY gain for LCS over PCS was 0.06 units. Multivariate sensitivity analyses revealed that LCS would need to significantly improve visual outcomes and complications rates over PCS, along with a reduction in cost to patient, to improve cost effectiveness. Modeling a best-case scenario of LCS with excellent visual outcomes (100%), a significant reduction in complications (0%) and a significantly reduced cost to patient (of $300) resulted in an ICER of $20 000.

Conclusions: Laser cataract surgery, irrespective of potential improvements in visual acuity outcomes and complication rates, is not cost effective at its current cost to patient when compared with cost-effectiveness benchmarks and other medical interventions, including PCS. A significant reduction in the cost to patient (via reduced consumable/click cost) would increase the likelihood of LCS being considered cost effective.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cataract / economics*
  • Cataract Extraction / economics*
  • Cataract Extraction / methods
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Health Care Costs / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy / economics*
  • Models, Econometric
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Phacoemulsification / economics*
  • Phacoemulsification / methods
  • Quality of Life
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Visual Acuity / physiology