Open Access Open Badges Research article

Focussing both eyes on health outcomes: revisiting cataract surgery

Jennifer C Davis12*, Heather McNeill3, Michael Wasdell3, Susan Chunick3 and Stirling Bryan12

Author affiliations

1 Centre for Clinical Epidemiology & Evaluation, Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, Vancouver, Canada

2 School of Population and Public Health, Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluation VCH Research Institute, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

3 Department of Evaluation & Research Services, Fraser Health Authority, Surrey, Canada

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Citation and License

BMC Geriatrics 2012, 12:50  doi:10.1186/1471-2318-12-50

Published: 3 September 2012



The appropriateness of cataract surgery procedures has been questioned, the suggestion being that the surgery is sometimes undertaken too early in the disease progression. Our three study questions were: What is the level of visual impairment in patients scheduled for cataract surgery? What is the improvement following surgery? Given the thresholds for a minimal detectable change (MDC) and a minimal clinically important difference (MCID), do gains in visual function reach the MDC and MCID thresholds?


The sample included a prospective cohort of cataract surgery patients from four Fraser Health Authority ophthalmologists. Visual function (VF-14) was assessed pre-operatively and at seven weeks post-operatively. Two groups from this cohort were included in this analysis: ‘all first eyes’ (cataract extraction on first eye) and ‘both eyes’ (cataract removed from both eyes). Descriptive statistics, change scores for VF-14 for each eye group and proportion of patients who reach the MDC and MCID are reported.


One hundred and forty-two patients are included in the ‘all first eyes’ analyses and 55 in the ‘both eyes’ analyses. The mean pre-operative VF-14 score for the ‘all first eyes’ group was 86.7 (on a 0–100 scale where 100 is full visual function). The mean change in VF-14 for the 'both eyes' group was 7.5. Twenty-three percent of patients achieved improvements in visual function beyond the MCID threshold and 35% saw improvement beyond the MDC.


Neither threshold level for MDC or MCID for the VF-14 scale was achieved for a majority of patients. A plausible explanation for this is the very high levels of pre-operative visual functioning.

Cataract surgery; Visual function; Health outcomes