Cataract research using electronic health records

Carol J. Waudby, Richard L. Berg, James G. Linneman, Luke V. Rasmussen, Peggy L. Peissig, Lin Chen, Catherine A. McCarty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Background: The eMERGE (electronic MEdical Records and Genomics) network, funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute, is a national consortium formed to develop, disseminate, and apply approaches to research that combine DNA biorepositories with electronic health record (EHR) systems for large-scale, high-throughput genetic research. Marshfield Clinic is one of five sites in the eMERGE network and primarily studied: 1) age-related cataract and 2) HDL-cholesterol levels. The purpose of this paper is to describe the approach to electronic evaluation of the epidemiology of cataract using the EHR for a large biobank and to assess previously identified epidemiologic risk factors in cases identified by electronic algorithms. Methods. Electronic algorithms were used to select individuals with cataracts in the Personalized Medicine Research Project database. These were analyzed for cataract prevalence, age at cataract, and previously identified risk factors. Results: Cataract diagnoses and surgeries, though not type of cataract, were successfully identified using electronic algorithms. Age specific prevalence of both cataract (22% compared to 17.2%) and cataract surgery (11% compared to 5.1%) were higher when compared to the Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group. The risk factors of age, gender, diabetes, and steroid use were confirmed. Conclusions: Using electronic health records can be a viable and efficient tool to identify cataracts for research. However, using retrospective data from this source can be confounded by historical limits on data availability, differences in the utilization of healthcare, and changes in exposures over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number32
JournalBMC Ophthalmology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation’s Office of Scientific Writing and Publication for editorial assistance with this manuscript. This study was funded in part by grant number 1U01HG004608 from the National Human Genome Research Institute.


  • Cataract
  • electronic health record
  • epidemiology
  • prevalence
  • risk factors


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