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Cataract surgery in Ontario expected to more than double by 2036

November 12, 2012 Toronto

Cataract surgery, the most frequently performed surgical procedure in Ontario, is a low-cost operation that significantly improves the quality of life for seniors. New research done at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) predicts the number of cataract surgeries will more than double by 2036 and the need for cataract operations for patients 85 years of age and older will more than triple over the same period.

In 2006, the Ontario government mandated a Wait Time Strategy (WTS) to increase access to and decrease wait times for key health services, including cataract surgery. This study examined cataract surgery rates before and after the introduction of the WTS and used projected population estimates to predict the number of cataract surgeries that would be performed by 2036 using surgery rates in effect before and after the WTS.

“These finding are important because ophthalmologists provide approximately 90 per cent of their procedure-based services to seniors, making this specialty particularly vulnerable to the effects of an aging population. Among surgical specialties, ophthalmology will experience the greatest growth in demand for services in coming years,” says Dr. Rob Campbell, scientist at ICES and an ophthalmologist at the School of Medicine at Queen’s University.

Key findings from the study:

  • The number of cataract surgeries needed in Ontario is projected to increase from about 143,000 in 2006 (after the Wait Time Strategy start) to 326,000 by 2036 (128 per cent growth).
  • The projected increase in cataract surgery based on surgery rates before initiation of the Wait Time Strategy is 72 per cent by 2036.
  • The projected increase in cataract surgery based on surgery rates after initiation of the Wait Time Strategy is 144 per cent by 2036.
  • The proportion of cataract operations provided for older patients is projected to rise significantly, with the number of surgeries for patients 85 years of age and older more than tripling by 2036.

“In the U.S. and Canada, the number of seniors is projected to more than triple between 2010 and 2036 and with that the need for cataract surgery will rise significantly. As a result, anticipating future cataract surgery needs is vital for sound health care planning,” says Campbell.

The study “Projecting the growth of cataract surgery over the next 25 years” was published today in Archives of Ophthalmology.

Authors: Hatch WV, Campbell EDP, Bell CM, El-Defrawy SR, Campbell RJ.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

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