Cataract risk stratification and prioritisation protocol in the COVID-19 era

Kelvin Cheng, Martin Anderson, S. Velissaris, Robert Berkeley Reynolds Moreton, Ahmed Al-Mansour, Roshini Sanders, Shona Sutherland, Peter Wilson, Andrew Blaikie

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The COVID-19 pandemic halted non-emergency surgery across Scotland. Measures to mitigate the risks of transmitting COVID-19 are creating significant challenges to restarting all surgical services safely. We describe the development of a risk stratification tool to prioritise patients for cataract surgery taking account both specific risk factors for poor outcome from COVID-19 infection as well as surgical ‘need’. In addition we report the demographics and comorbidities of patients on our waiting list.

A prospective case review of electronic records was performed. A risk stratification tool was developed based on review of available literature on systemic risk factors for poor outcome from COVID-19 infection as well as a surgical ‘need’ score. Scores derived from the tool were used to generate 6 risk profile groups to allow prioritised allocation of surgery.

There were 744 patients awaiting cataract surgery of which 66 (8.9 %) patients were ‘shielding’. One hundred and thirty-two (19.5 %) patients had no systemic comorbidities, 218 (32.1 %) patients had 1 relevant systemic comorbidity and 316 (46.5 %) patients had 2 or more comorbidities. Five hundred and ninety patients (88.7 %) did not have significant ocular comorbidities. Using the risk stratification tool, 171 (23 %) patients were allocated in the highest 3 priority stages. Given an aging cohort with associated increase in number of systemic comorbidities, the majority of patients were in the lower priority stages 4 to 6.

COVID-19 has created an urgent challenge to deal safely with cataract surgery waiting lists. This has driven the need for a prompt and pragmatic change to the way we assess risks and benefits of a previously regarded as low-risk intervention. This is further complicated by the majority of patients awaiting cataract surgery being elderly with comorbidities and at higher risk of mortality related to COVID-19. We present a pragmatic method of risk stratifying patients on waiting lists, blending an evidence-based objective assessment of risk and patient need combined with an element of shared decision-making. This has facilitated safe and successful restarting of our cataract service.
Original languageEnglish
Article number153
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2021


  • COVID-19


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