New paper finds half of people with cataracts don’t receive surgery

Posted on: Thursday, 2nd March, 2017
Patients with eye patches after sight-restoring cataract surgery

A new paper published on 1st March, looking at cataract surgery across 20 low and middle income countries has found that only about half the people living with vision loss because of cataract surgery receive the operation they need to restore their sight. Published in scientific journal PLOS ONE, the paper calculated that on average 53.7% people needing the surgery received it.

Dr Babar Qureshi, CBM’s International Director of Eye Health, responded to the study saying: “We welcome this paper as another reminder of the need to improve access to cataract surgery in the world’s poorest places. It’s simply unacceptable that half the people needing cataract surgery aren’t receiving it.  The human cost of so much avoidable blindness, as well as the cost to families, communities and whole societies, is huge.  But I’m also glad to see the paper highlights the need to look at quality of surgery, as well as just the number of operations. At CBM, our focus is on developing the highest quality, affordable eye health surgeries for everyone, not one service for the rich, one for the poor”. 

The paper’s authors also highlight the need to look at how successful operations are in restoring vision, rather than simply counting the number of operations. In this study about one-third of people who had undergone cataract surgery were still not able to see well. There are several reasons why cataract surgery does not always result in good vision, including the presence of other eye disease. Poor surgery, including inadequate assessment of the power of the artificial lens to be inserted into the eye, is also a significant factor.

The paper analysed datasets from 20 countries, during the period 2005 and 2013. None of the 20 countries managed to achieve the WHO target of at least 80% of cataract surgeries resulting in good visual outcomes.

The paper also notes that almost half of the countries faced a “double disadvantage” of low levels of cataract surgical coverage and low likelihood of a good visual outcome. The lowest ranked countries had eCSC values of less than 20%.

Read the full article:

CBM and Cataract surgery

CBM has been restoring sight through cataract surgery for over 50 years. Last year, CBM carried out over 461,000 cataract surgeries across some of the world's poorest communities. CBM works with all of our partner-hospitals in the poorest places to help them deliver high quality eye heath services in accordance with WHO guidelines.


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