Delivering excellence - cataract surgery

Eye unit 250x167

In my first two entries I talked about trauma and heart attacks – this month the focus might seem to be less dramatic but I’m sure we would all agree that losing our sight would have a major impact on our lives.

Cataracts are a very common eye problem, mainly affecting people later in life. A cloudy film forms in the eye meaning it becomes very difficult to see clearly. But the good news is that there is a simple operation that can put things right. The surgery takes around 20 minutes and patients can soon go about their usual activities – with their sight restored.

As part of a ‘delivering excellence in surgery’, our Southampton Eye Unit continuously monitors the quality of cataract surgery. An important marker of good quality is a low rate of a complication called ‘posterior capsule rupture’.

The posterior capsule is a fine membrane in the eye, which is important for positioning a new lens after cataract surgery. UK cataract surgeons have been monitoring this and accept it as a quality benchmark, the UK average rate is 1.92% - so that’s about 19 patients out of every 1000 treated develop the complication. Southampton’s rate for 2011 was 1.34% - just over 13 patients for every 1000 treated; significantly better than the national rate, despite the fact that we operate on some of the most complex cases in the area.

Although ‘posterior capsule rupture’ sounds worrying, in those patients where it does happen the surgeon will take action to put things right before the cataract surgery is completed.

Mr Richard Newsom, consultant ophthalmologist, says: “Good cataract surgery results show the quality of care throughout outpatients, pre-assessment, eye ward and in the operating theatre.

“We are proud of the improvements that we are continually making in all of these areas, and are committed to delivering the highest quality of care to people in the region.”

You can find out more about cataract surgery on NHS choices.