June 2022
Volume 63, Issue 7
Open Access
ARVO Annual Meeting Abstract  |   June 2022
Impact of COVID-19 on ophthalmic surgery in Australia
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Sachin Phakey
    Centre for Eye Research Australia, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Anthony John Hall
    Ophthalmology, Alfred Health, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Department of Surgery, Central Clinical School, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia
  • Lyndell L Lim
    Centre for Eye Research Australia, Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, East Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery, The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  • Footnotes
    Commercial Relationships   Sachin Phakey None; Anthony Hall None; Lyndell Lim None
  • Footnotes
    Support  None
Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science June 2022, Vol.63, 2155 – A0183. doi:
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      Sachin Phakey, Anthony John Hall, Lyndell L Lim; Impact of COVID-19 on ophthalmic surgery in Australia. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2022;63(7):2155 – A0183.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Purpose : The effect of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on ophthalmic surgical case numbers in Australia and globally remains poorly characterised. Increased incidence of COVID-19 in Australia between March and April 2020 led to a national lockdown and elective surgery restrictions. The aim of this population-based study was to quantify the early impact of COVID-19 on ophthalmic surgery in Australia, comparing surgical service rates in 2019 and 2020.

Methods : Retrospective analysis of the number of ophthalmic surgical services in 2019 and 2020 in all Australian States and Territories, as recorded by Medicare (Australian Government-funded universal health insurance scheme subsidising healthcare costs for Australian residents). Monthly surgical service rates were calculated and Poisson regression was used to compare the change in service rates between months.

Results : Between March and April 2020, surgical service rates decreased for: cataract surgery (by 71%, 95% CI: 70-72%), cataract surgery with minimally invasive glaucoma surgical device insertion (by 71%, 95% CI: 65-75%), pterygium removal (by 67%, 95% CI: 60-72%), corneal transplantation (by 31%, 95% CI: 9-48%), and collagen crosslinking for corneal ectasias (by 35%, 95% CI: 18-48%). Comparatively, service rates for these surgeries did not differ or decreased less between March and April 2019. Interestingly, glaucoma filtration surgery rates decreased between March and April in 2020 (by 44%, 95% CI: 29-56%) and also in 2019 (by 45%, 95% CI: 31-55%), whilst retinal detachment surgery rates were unchanged between these months in 2020 (crude decrease 9%, 95% CI: -28 to 16%) and 2019 (crude decrease 11%, 95% CI: -26 to 9%).

Conclusions : Despite relatively low rates of COVID-19 community transmission in Australia in 2020, ophthalmic surgical service rates decreased during months in lockdown and with restrictions, largely for non-time-critical conditions. These data may have health planning implications as the pandemic continues, with future lockdowns and restrictions possible, especially as COVID-19 variants emerge.

This abstract was presented at the 2022 ARVO Annual Meeting, held in Denver, CO, May 1-4, 2022, and virtually.


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