Cataract Surgery Safety for the Elderly

Cataract surgery found to be safe and effective for elderly patients

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Cataract surgery can significantly improve vision for cataracts patients, but is it a good option for the elderly?

A recent study found that after surgery, visual acuity (clearness of vision) significantly increased for a group of very elderly patients with cataracts.

The researchers also found that eye pressure significantly decreased, but only for elderly patients who also had glaucoma.

"Speak with your doctor about treatment for cataracts."

This study was led by Katarzyna Michalska-Małecka, in the Department of Ophthalmology at University Hospital No 5, Medical University of Silesia in Katowice, Poland. The research team examined the success and safety of cataract surgery and intraocular lens implantation (lens put in the eye to treat cataracts) in very elderly patients. 

The study included 122 elderly patients between 90 and 100 years old who had been diagnosed with cataracts, which occurs when the lens of the eye becomes cloudy and leads to vision loss. The average age of the patients was 91.2 years. 

The researchers measured visual acuity (clearness of vision) and intraocular pressure (pressure caused by fluids inside the eye) to determine the success and safety of the surgery. Measurements were taken the first day after surgery and again at three and six months post-surgery.

About two-thirds of the patients had other eye diseases including age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

The researchers found that visual acuity improved for 82 percent of the eyes that were operated on. For about 16 percent of eyes, visual acuity stayed the same, and for less than 2 percent of eyes, visual acuity decreased. The researchers attributed the decrease in visual acuity to the presence of other eye diseases.

The researchers also found a significant decrease in intraocular eye pressure after surgery for patients who also had glaucoma. No significant changes in intraocular eye pressure were seen for patients without glaucoma. Higher intraocular eye pressure is a characteristic specific to glaucoma, so patients without glaucoma are expected to already have normal intraocular eye pressure. 

As average life spans increase and the elderly populations grows, the number of people with cataracts is expected to rise. For this reason, the authors noted that it is important to determine the safety of cataract surgery for older patients. Their findings suggest that cataract surgery is a safe treatment option for the elderly.

The authors concluded that if other health conditions are stable, cataract surgery is safe and effective for the elderly.

This study was published on August 6 in Clinical Interventions in Aging.

The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 30, 2013
Last Updated:
December 30, 2013