Study shows risk of falling remains after cataract surgery

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The FINANCIAL — A new study has found that though cataract surgery can improve dizziness in patients, it doesn’t always help reduce the risk of falls.

Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI), so optometrists’ role in helping post-surgical patients reduce their risk of falls is critical, according to AOA.

Published in Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics, the study evaluated the dizziness and falls rates of 287 patients (average age 76.5) before and after routine cataract surgery. Six months after the surgery, the percentage of patients who reported dizziness dropped from 52 percent to 38 percent.

However, the percentage of patients who reported falling after surgery dropped only slightly, from 23 percent to 20 percent.

Researchers found a significant link between post-operative falls and the patient being switched to multifocal spectacles. David Lewerenz, O.D., chair of the AOA Vision Rehabilitation Section and associate professor at Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry, recommends that optometrists talk to post-operative cataract patients about alternatives to multifocal lenses.

“Unrelated to their cataract surgery status, people who wear multifocal lenses have been shown to have increased fall rates,” Dr. Lewerenz says. “If we sense that a patient is somewhat unsteady, and might be at relatively high risk for a fall anyway, we might talk to that patient about the option of having two pair of glasses—one for distance vision and one for reading—rather than going with multifocal glasses.”

Reinforcing the role of optometrists

The study’s results once again highlight the crucial role optometrists play in both pre- and postsurgical care of cataract patients. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology and American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery released a position paper in September 2015 acknowledging that co-managed care often best serves the patient.

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“A lot of people who have cataract surgery are going to be far better served by getting their follow-up care closer to home with their local optometrist,” Dr. Lewerenz says. “Some people might not choose to go back for follow-up care at all if they have to travel too far. If they can see their hometown optometrist, that makes it all the more likely that they will receive the care they need.”

If a cataract patient, or any other patient, does fall and experiences TBI, AOA has a new resource to help optometrists treat them. The second addendum of the Brain Injury Electronic Resource Manual is now available: Volume 1B, Traumatic Brain Injury Visual Dysfunction: Optometric Management and Advanced Topics. It can help doctors of optometry evaluate brain-injured patients. The first addendum, Volume 1A, covers diagnosis of brain injuries.

“The brain injury manual has been a very popular and valuable resource among AOA members,” Dr. Lewerenz says. “It could be a resource for optometrists who are treating or evaluating patients who have had head injuries from a fall or some other source.”


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