STUDY: Doctors Give Too Many Unnecessary Tests Before Cataract Surgery

nurse checking womans pressureOlder Americans get a lot of unnecessary tests before they undergo cataract surgery, a new study suggests.

Experts said the findings highlight an area of wasteful health care spending. Plus, they said, there is a risk for harm if the tests pick up a mild abnormality that prompts further tests, then turns out to be nothing.

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Cataracts are protein clumps that cloud the eye’s lens. They are exceedingly common among older adults, and cataract surgery is considered one of the most routine and safe procedures performed in the United States.

“It’s the prototypical low-risk surgery,” said Dr. Catherine Chen, the lead researcher on the new study and a resident physician in perioperative care at the University of California, San Francisco.

The procedure involves replacing the eye’s cloudy lens with an artificial one.

“It takes 10 to 15 minutes for one eye,” Chen said, “and it uses local anesthesia.”

Because of that simplicity, guidelines from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and other groups say there is no need to routinely do tests ahead of cataract surgery.