The impact of cataract surgery in Vietnam

Imperfect vision not only makes daily living a challenge but considerably affects an individual’s quality of life, in particular their psychological and emotional wellbeing.

This is intensified for patients living in developing countries, where the impact of low vision can be catastrophic due to the inability to work coupled with little or no health insurance and social support.

Like many countries, the cause of low vision in Vietnam is heavily linked to cataracts - a clouding of the clear lens in the eye. It is the leading cause of blindness in Vietnam, due to high rates of untreated patients. In recent years screening and surgery rates have improved, thanks to a handful of well-recognised international organisations such as the Fred Hollows Foundation and ORBIS. However, the demand for cataract surgery far outweighs the ability to provide the service and a recent study called for an urgent nation-wide strategy and action plan for blindness prevention in Vietnam.

Researchers at The George are now teaming up with the Fred Hollows Foundation to conduct an investigation of the impact of cataract surgery, to highlight the vital role it plays in the future economic development of Vietnam.

“The power of cataract care and surgery in Vietnam is massive. It has already restored sight to thousands of patients, and the result is an improved quality of life. What’s more, the results are immediate, meaning that many patients can quickly return to work and provide for their families”, said lead researcher, Beverley Essue from The George Institute for Global Health

“Data on the cost-effectiveness of cataract surgery and the economic and psychological impact of untreated cataract will help to inform priority setting, health care planning and further investment in eye-health services in this country”, she added.

The research team are assessing patients who are referred for cataract surgery before and after the procedure. By following the patients at six and twelve months after their surgery, the team will determine the impact the surgery has on quality of life, visual function, household economic circumstances and psychological outcomes.

The cost-effectiveness of cataract surgery is also being assessed, so international policies have the best available evidence upon which to base future decisions, advocacy and campaigns.

The study protocol for the VISIONARY study was published in 2011 in BMC Ophthalmology. Results of the study are due at the end of 2012.