Cataract Surgery and Cognitive Benefits in the Older Person: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Ophthalmology. 2024 Feb 8:S0161-6420(24)00102-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2024.02.003. Online ahead of print.


Topic: This systematic review and meta-analysis aims to clarify the association of cataract surgery with cognitive impairment and dementia.

Clinical relevance: The association between vision impairment and cognitive decline is well-established. However, the cognitive benefits of cataract surgery are less clear. Given the lack of cure for dementia, identifying modifiable risk factors is key in caring for patients with cognitive deficits.

Methods: The study was conducted following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Review and Meta-analyses guidelines. PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library were searched from inception through October 11, 2022, for studies reporting the effect of cataract surgery on cognitive impairment and dementia. We pooled maximally adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) for dichotomous outcomes and ratio of means (RoM) for continuous outcomes using a random-effects model. Heterogeneity was examined using sensitivity and subgroup analyses. The quality of evidence was evaluated using the Newcastle-Ottawa scale, Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for randomized trials, and Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluations (GRADE) guidelines.

Results: This review included 24 articles comprising 558 276 participants, of which 19 articles were analyzed qualitatively. The bias of studies ranged from low to moderate, and GRADE extended from very low to low. Cataract surgery was associated with a 25% reduced risk of long-term cognitive decline compared with those with uncorrected cataracts (HR, 0.75; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.72-0.78). This cognitive benefit was seen across various cognitive outcomes and remained robust to sensitivity analyses. Participants who underwent cataract surgery showed a similar risk of long-term cognitive decline as healthy controls without cataracts (HR, 0.84; 95% CI, 0.66-1.06). Additionally, cataract surgery was associated with a 4% improvement in short-term cognitive test scores among participants with normal cognition (RoM, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.94-0.99), but no significant association was observed among participants with preexisting cognitive impairment.

Discussion: Cataract surgery may be associated with a lower risk of cognitive impairment and dementia, and cataract-associated vision impairment may be a modifiable risk factor for cognitive decline. Physicians should be aware of the cognitive sequelae of cataracts and the possible benefits of surgery. The cognitive benefits of cataract surgery should be investigated further in randomized trials.

Financial disclosure(s): The author(s) have no proprietary or commercial interest in any materials discussed in this article.

Keywords: Cataract; Cataract surgery; Cognitive decline; Cognitive impairment; Dementia.

Publication types

  • Review