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Ophthalmology. 2003 Dec;110(12):2310-7.

Cost-utility analysis of cataract surgery in the second eye.

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  • 1Center for Evidence-Based Health Care Economics, Wills Eye Hospital, Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.



To perform a reference case cost-utility analysis of second-eye cataract surgery by using the current literature on cataract outcomes and complications.


Computer-based econometric modeling.


Visual acuity data of patients treated and observed over a 4-month postoperative period were obtained from the U.S. National Cataract Patient Outcomes Research Team report. The results from this prospective study were combined with those of other studies that investigated the complication rates of cataract surgery to complete the cohort of patients and outcomes. These synthesized data were incorporated with time trade-off utility values, which accounted for prior successful cataract surgery in the fellow eye. Cost-utility determinations were made with decision analysis, and present value modeling was used to account for the time value of money and health state consequences.


The number of quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) gained was calculated for the study group undergoing second-eye cataract surgery, assuming that the postoperative vision in the second eye was equivalent to the vision in the first eye after surgery (20/27). This was divided into the cost of the procedure to find the number of year 2001 nominal U.S. dollars spent per QALY gained.


Second-eye cataract surgery, as compared with unilateral pseudophakia, resulted in a mean gain of 1.31 undiscounted QALYs per patient treated. A 3% annual discount rate, dependent on the duration of benefit, was used, yielding 0.92 discounted QALYs gained over a 12-year life expectancy. The mean discounted cost of treatment for each patient totaled 2509 US dollars. The cost divided by the QALYs gained (benefit) resulted in 2727 US dollars per QALY gained for this procedure. Sensitivity analysis varying costs and utility values revealed a range from 2045 US dollars to 3649 US dollars per QALY gained.


Second-eye cataract surgery is an extremely cost-effective procedure when compared with other interventions across medical specialties. The cost-effectiveness of second-eye surgery diminishes only slightly from the 2023 US dollars per QALY gained from first-eye cataract surgery. This suggests that patients with good vision in one eye and visual loss from cataract in the fellow eye derive substantial benefit from cataract extraction.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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