Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on elective cataract surgery wait times

Document Type





Objective: Lengthy wait times for cataract surgery can negatively affect patients' quality of life and increase the incidence of falls and depression. The COVID-19 pandemic has presented significant challenges to the delivery of elective cataract surgeries. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on cataract surgery wait times in the Alberta Health Services' Edmonton zone were studied by examining the wait times before and during the pandemic.
Methods: This study was conducted based on a retrospective population-based design. Data were compiled from a centralized database related to hospital-based cataract surgery (Royal Alexandra, Fort Saskatchewan, and WestView Health Centre) between April 2019 and March 2022 (i.e., 3 fiscal years).
Results: The average wait time for cataract surgery increased from 14.4 ± 1.4 weeks in 2019-2020 to 18.2 ± 2.7 weeks in 2020-2021 (p = 0.005) and then decreased to 11.5 ± 1.3 in 2021-2022 (p < 0.001). The number of completed surgeries decreased from 13,103 in 2019-200 to 9,308 (p = 0.09) and 10,365 (p = 0.1) during the next 2 years. The annual operating room time for scheduled cases was reduced to 4463 hours (p = 0.42) and 4552 hours (p = 0.15) during the pandemic compared with 5541 hours before the pandemic. However, the average waitlist size decreased from 6629 at the end of 2019-200 to 6122 (p = 0.029) and 4011 (p < 0.001) during the next 2 years.
Conclusion: The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in significantly increased average wait times for elective cataract surgery during the first year of the pandemic. Because of a reduction of the waitlist size, the wait times decreased during the second year of the pandemic.


Volume, issue and pagination are not provided by the author/publisher. This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology