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Br J Ophthalmol. 2002 May;86(5):565-71.

A prospective, case controlled study of the natural history of diabetic retinopathy and maculopathy after uncomplicated phacoemulsification cataract surgery in patients with type 2 diabetes.

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  • 1Department of Ophthalmology, Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield S10 2RX, UK.



To determine if uncomplicated phacoemulsification cataract surgery is associated with an accelerated rate of progression of diabetic retinopathy or maculopathy postoperatively.


A prospective trial of 50 type 2 diabetics undergoing monocular phacoemulsification cataract surgery by a single consultant surgeon. The grade of diabetic retinopathy and diabetic maculopathy in the operated and non-operated fellow eye was assessed preoperatively and for 12 months postoperatively.


Overall, retinopathy progression was observed in 11 patients. In seven the retinopathy progressed in both eyes, in three it progressed in the operated eye alone, and in one it progressed in the fellow eye alone. Macular oedema was observed in 13 eyes postoperatively. Four had transient pseudophakic cystoid macular oedema and nine true diabetic maculopathy. Where maculopathy progressed it did so symmetrically in five patients, it progressed in the operated eye alone in four patients, and the fellow eye alone in two patients. There was no significant difference in the number of operated and fellow eyes whose retinopathy or maculopathy progressed postoperatively. In both the operated (OE) and non-operated (NoE) eyes retinopathy progression was associated with a higher mean HbA(1)C (OE p=0.003; NoE p=0.001) and insulin treatment (OE p=0.008, NoE p=0.04).


Uncomplicated phacoemulsification cataract surgery does not cause acceleration of diabetic retinopathy postoperatively and any progression that is observed probably represents the natural history of the disease. Although macular oedema is common after cataract surgery it may follow a benign course and in many patients the development of clinically significant macular oedema postoperatively probably represents natural disease progression rather than being a direct effect of surgery.

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