Study Examines Cataract Surgery and Car Accidents

Published: September 2, 2021

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Car accidents are considered multifactorial in cause, with driver error a contributing factor in most. About one person in 50 will be involved in a car accident in the average year.(1) “Drivers 65 and older have the highest death rate per mile driven, in part owing to increased fallibility and frailty.”(1) Cataracts can make it harder for a driver to see the road, street signs, other cars, and pedestrians.(2)

The Department of Transportation lists these cataract symptoms that can affect driving:

  • objects look blurry 
  • things are more difficult to see in bright light
  • headlight glare is more intense
  • colors look faded
  • night vision is worse
  • double vision may be present(2)

A population study including more than 500,000 patients in Canada found that cataract surgery was associated with a reduced risk of a hospital visit due to a car accident, when the cataract patient was the driver.(3) All patients were over the age of 65 and had undergone cataract surgery between the years 2006 and 2016. The median age of the patients was 76. Records were tracked for five years after the surgery. “The researchers excluded those patients who had cataract surgery combined with retina, glaucoma, or cornea surgery because of uncertain visual recovery.”(3)

Published results included: “In this population-based study of 559,546 patients who received at least one cataract surgery, the crash rate decreased from 2.36 per 1000 patient-years in the baseline interval to 2.14 per 1000 patient-years after surgery, representing a 9% reduction in serious traffic crashes.”(1)

Additionally, researchers found crash rates were highest in the first month after surgery and speculated that this may be due to uncorrected refractive error, adapting to recovery, or overconfidence. The researchers suggested this finding “should inform post-surgery physician counseling.”(3)

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(1) Schlenker, M. M.D., Thiruchelvam, D., Redelmeier, D. M.D., JAMA Ophthalmology, Association of Cataract Surgery with Traffic Crashes, https://jamanetwork.com/
(2) Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Driving When You Have Cataracts, https://one.nhtsa.gov/
(3) Mott, M. Bressler N. M.D., editor, EyeNet Magazine, Cataract Surgery and the Rate of Traffic Accidents, https://www.aao.org/