Association of cataract surgery with mortality in older women: Findings from the women's health initiative

Victoria L. Tseng, Rowan T. Chlebowski, Fei Yu, Jane A. Cauley, Wenjun Li, Fridtjof Thomas, Beth A. Virnig, Anne L. Coleman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


IMPORTANCE Previous studies have suggested an association between cataract surgery and decreased risk for all-cause mortality potentially through a mechanism of improved health status and functional independence, but the association between cataract surgery and cause-specific mortality has not been previously studied and is not well understood. OBJECTIVE To examine the association between cataract surgery and total and cause-specific mortality in older women with cataract. DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS This prospective cohort study included nationwide data collected from theWomen's Health Initiative (WHI) clinical trial and observational study linked with the Medicare claims database. Participants in the present study were 65 years or older with a diagnosis of cataract in the linked Medicare claims database. The WHI data were collected from January 1, 1993, through December 31, 2015. Data were analyzed for the present study from July 1, 2014, through September 1, 2017. EXPOSURES Cataract surgery as determined by Medicare claims codes. MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES The outcomes of interest included all-cause mortality and mortality attributed to vascular, cancer, accidental, neurologic, pulmonary, and infectious causes. Mortality rates were compared by cataract surgery status using the log-rank test and Cox proportional hazards regression models adjusting for demographics, systemic and ocular comorbidities, smoking, alcohol use, body mass index, and physical activity. RESULTS A total of 74 044 women with cataract in the WHI included 41 735 who underwent cataract surgery. Mean (SD) age was 70.5 (4.6) years; the most common ethnicity was white (64 430 [87.0%]), followed by black (5293 [7.1%]) and Hispanic (1723 [2.3%]). The mortality rate was 2.56 per 100 person-years in both groups. In covariate-adjusted Cox models, cataract surgery was associated with lower all-cause mortality (adjusted hazards ratio [AHR], 0.40; 95%CI, 0.39-0.42) as well as lower mortality specific to vascular (AHR, 0.42; 95%CI, 0.39-0.46), cancer (AHR, 0.31; 95%CI, 0.29-0.34), accidental (AHR, 0.44; 95%CI, 0.33-0.58), neurologic (AHR, 0.43; 95%CI, 0.36-0.53), pulmonary (AHR, 0.63; 95%CI, 0.52-0.78), and infectious (AHR, 0.44; 95%CI, 0.36-0.54) diseases. CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE In older women with cataract in the WHI, cataract surgery is associated with lower risk for total and cause-specific mortality, although whether this association is explained by the intervention of cataract surgery is unclear. Further study of the interplay of cataract surgery, systemic disease, and disease-related mortality would be informative for improved patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-10
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Ophthalmology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding/Support: This study was supported by the Center of Community Outreach and Policy, Stein Eye Institute, UCLA, and the National Institutes of Health Loan Repayment Program. The Women’s Health Initiative program is supported by contracts HHSN268201600018C, HHSN268201600001C, HHSN268201600002C, HHSN268201600003C, and HHSN268201600004C from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Health and Human Services.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 American Medical Association. All rights reserved.


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