Background: Cataract surgery is the most common form of major ophthalmic surgery in Australia and a common surgical procedure among the elderly. The purpose of this report is to compile the numbers and rates of cataract extractions and implant of IOLs over the period 1985-94 for Australia.
Methods: Data were obtained for public and private cataract extractions and IOL implants from state and territory ministries of health and from the Health Insurance Commission. The data relating to cataract surgery were compared with the growth in the proportion of elderly people in the population.
Results: The number of cataract extractions has increased by 2.6 times over the ten-year period to 67,459 in 1994 and IOL implants have increased by 2.9 times over the same period to 70,084. The increase in the elderly population for the period was 1.3 times so that there is a relative doubling in the rate of surgery. The proportion of public patients has risen from 19% to 28% from 1985 to 1994.
Conclusions: The numbers of cataract extractions and IOL implants was increased at double the rate expected from the growth in the elderly population. Advances in microsurgery and IOL technology have resulted improved outcomes and have created a greater patient demand. The improved outcomes have also lead to ophthalmologists recommending cataract surgery at better visual acuity levels than previously.