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Original Investigation
March 2016

Geographic Variation in the Rate and Timing of Cataract Surgery Among US Communities

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, W. K. Kellogg Eye Center, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 2Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
  • 3Department of Health Policy and Management, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016;134(3):267-276. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2015.5322

Importance  Previous studies using data from the 1980s found relatively little geographic variation in cataract surgery rates across the United States. We do not know whether similar patterns hold true today, nor do we know the patient- and community-level factors that might explain any recent geographic variations in the rate and timing of cataract surgery.

Objective  To assess the extent of geographic variation in patient age at initial cataract surgery and the age-standardized cataract surgery rate in a large group of insured US patients with cataracts.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Retrospective cross-sectional study of 1 050 815 beneficiaries older than 40 years of age with cataracts who were enrolled in a nationwide managed-care network during the period from 2001 to 2011. The data analysis was started in 2014 and refined in 2015.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Median age at initial cataract extraction, age-standardized cataract surgery rate, and time from initial diagnosis to first surgery for patients with cataracts were compared among 306 US communities. Multivariable regression modeling generated hazard ratios (HRs) with 95% CIs identifying factors associated with patients’ likelihood of undergoing cataract surgery.

Results  A total of 243 104 patients with cataracts (23.1%) underwent 1 or more surgical procedures (55.1% were female patients). Communities with the youngest and oldest patients at initial surgery differed in age by nearly 20 years (59.9-60.1 years in Lansing, Michigan, and Aurora, Illinois, vs 77.0-79.6 years in Marquette, Michigan; Rochester, New York; and Binghamton, New York). The highest age-standardized cataract surgery rate (37.3% in Lake Charles, Louisiana) was 5-fold higher than the lowest (7.5% in Honolulu, Hawaii). The median time from initial cataract diagnosis to date of first surgery ranged from 17 days (Victoria, Texas) to 367 days (Yakima, Washington). Compared with white patients, black patients had a 15% decreased hazard of surgery (HR, 0.85 [95% CI, 0.83-0.87]), while Latino patients (HR, 1.08 [95% CI, 1.05-1.10]) and Asian patients (HR, 1.09 [95% CI, 1.05-1.12]) had an increased hazard. For every 1° higher latitude, the hazard of surgery decreased by 1% (HR, 0.99 [95% CI, 0.98-0.99]). For every additional optometrist per 100 000 enrollees in a community, the hazard of surgery increased 0.1% (HR, 1.001 [95% CI, 1.001-1.001]).

Conclusions and Relevance  In recent years, patient age at first cataract surgery and the age-standardized surgery rate have varied considerably among some US communities. Future research should explore the extent to which such variations may affect patient outcomes.