Aim: To evaluate the results of cataract surgery performed in a rural Indian eye camp.
Method: The pre- and postoperative visual acuities and surgical complications were recorded prospectively in 6383 eyes undergoing cataract extraction for age related cataract in rural eye camps held in northern India in 1993-4. The best visual acuity and cause of poor outcome were recorded on 3908 eyes seen at 6 weeks' follow up.
Results: Of 6383 operated eyes 94.8% had a visual acuity of less than 3/60 preoperatively, and 41% of the procedures were performed on patients who were bilaterally blind (less than 3/60 better eye). At discharge with standard aphakic spherical spectacles, 11.3% of eyes had an acuity of less than 6/60 (poor outcome), and 25.9% had an acuity of 6/18 or better. At 6 weeks' follow up 3908 eyes were examined (61.2%), of which, with best correction, 4.3% had poor outcome (acuity of less than 6/60) and 79.9% obtained 6/18 or better. Pre-existing eye pathology was responsible for poor outcome in 3.0% of eyes and surgical complications in 1.3% of eyes, of which corneal decompensation was the major cause (0.5%). In 237 eyes which received an intraocular lens implantation (IOL) in the camp, the visual acuity at discharge was 6/18 or better in 44.5% of eyes improving to 87.9% in the 157 eyes which were seen at 6 weeks' follow up. Poor outcome (less than 6/60) was seen in 5.7% of the eyes with an IOL at discharge improving to 1.9% at follow up.
Conclusion: This evaluation suggests that it is possible to obtain acceptable results from cataract extraction with experienced ophthalmologists in well conducted Indian eye camps. Better correction of aphakia at discharge from the camp would improve the immediate visual results, which is important as a significant number of patients do not return for follow up. The use of posterior chamber IOLs in the eye camp by experienced ophthalmologists, appeared to give satisfactory results, although further evaluation with a larger series of cases and more surgeons is required before it can be recommended.