Objective: To study the outcome of phacoemulsification (PE) compared to standard extracapsular surgery before the introduction of state-of-the-art techniques (capsulorhexis, hydrodissection, nuclear cracking, nuclear chopping, sutureless incisions) and sophisticated equipment.
Study design: Charts from 375 patients (453 eyes) undergoing PE between 1984 and 1989 were randomly selected and studied retrospectively. A minimum age of 35 years, and a minimum follow-up of three months were required.
Setting: A large eye hospital in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia staffed with an international faculty of ophthalmic surgeons.
Patients: Patients over 35 years of age undergoing PE for immature, mature and traumatic cataract.
Main outcome measures: Postoperative visual acuity, and rate or frequency of intraoperative complications.
Results: 66.5% achieved visual acuity of 20/40 or better, which compares favourably with the 36.5% of eyes reaching this level of visual acuity after mainly standard extracapsular cataract surgery in another study at our hospital. Posterior capsule ruptures occurred in 7.5% and vitreous loss in 5.5%. Other ocular disease (odds ratio 7.51 confidence interval 4.43-12.7) and intraoperative complications (odds ratio 2.97 confidence interval 1.38-6.42) were statistically significant predictors for final visual acuity of under 20/40 (p = < 0.001 and 0.005 respectively).
Conclusion: The outcome of PE was better than that of standard extracapsular cataract extraction in the same setting. However, since PE appeared to be used selectively, no clear advantage compared to extracapsular cataract extraction is evident in the period before the introduction of modern state-of-the-art PE-techniques.