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Original Investigation
February 20, 2020

Glaucoma Care of Prison Inmates at an Academic Hospital

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • 2King Khaled Eye Specialist Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2020;138(4):358-364. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.0001
Key Points

Question  What is the glaucoma profile of prison inmates referred to an academic center, and how is the treatment of those patients managed?

Findings  In this cohort study of 82 prison inmates, suspected and primary open-angle glaucoma were the most common diagnoses, with advanced disease present in 53.2% of patients with confirmed glaucoma. Most patients self-reported medication nonadherence, and follow-up visits often were delayed, with approximately one-quarter of visits during the recommended time frame and one-third delayed by more than 1 month.

Meaning  These findings suggest that glaucoma management of prison inmates requires careful consideration of barriers to care, and close communication with the referring facility may be advised.


Importance  Glaucoma care for prison inmates is underrepresented in the literature even though managing the treatment of such patients may provide unique challenges.

Objectives  To evaluate the glaucoma profile of prison inmates treated at an academic ophthalmology center and to report on the medical and surgical management and follow-up metrics.

Design, Setting, and Participants  This retrospective cohort study assessed data from 82 incarcerated patients treated at the glaucoma clinic, an academic referral center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, between January 2013 and December 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Diagnosis, glaucoma severity, medical and surgical interventions, and patient-reported medication adherence were recorded for each visit. Recommended and actual follow-up times were recorded and compared. Data analyses were conducted from January 2013 to December 2018.

Results  In total, 82 patients (161 eyes) had 375 visits during the study period. All patients were male and ranged from 20 to 75 years of age (mean [SD] age, 50.8 [11.9] years). Most participants were black patients (65 [79.3%]). The most common diagnoses were primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG; 53 eyes [32.9%]) and POAG suspect (52 eyes [32.3%]). Glaucoma severity ranged from mild (25 of 77 eyes [32.5%]) to advanced (41 of 77 eyes [53.2%]). Overall, 59 patients (73.2%) were treated medically with up to 4 topical agents (40.0%). Of those treated, 70.0% of patients (95% CI, 57.7%-81.2%) reported medication nonadherence during at least 1 visit. Medication nonadherence was more common among those taking 4 different topical medications (21 of 24 [87.5%]) compared with others taking fewer medications (20 of 35 [57.1%]), for a difference of 30.4% (95% CI, 7.0%-53.6%; P = .02), and among those with advanced disease (22 of 26 [84.6%]) compared with glaucoma suspect (6 of 13 [46.2%]), for a difference of 38.4% (95% CI, 9.3%-67.5%; P = .02). Nineteen office procedures, including laser peripheral iridotomy and laser trabeculoplasty, were performed on 14 eyes. Seventeen incisional glaucoma procedures were performed on 15 eyes, including glaucoma drainage device implant (11 procedures [64.7%]) and trabeculectomy (3 procedures [17.6%]). Only 26.6% of return office visits (95% CI, 21.3%-32.3%) occurred within the recommended follow-up time frame. Furthermore, 93 patients (34.8%; 95% CI, 28.2%-40.0%) were seen more than 1 month after the recommended follow-up.

Conclusions and Relevance  Despite incarceration in prison, where medication administration and appointment attendance are theoretically controlled, the results of this study suggested that substantial medication and follow-up nonadherence exists among inmates.

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