Cochrane Brief

Preoperative Testing for Patients Undergoing Cataract Surgery


Am Fam Physician. 2009 Dec 1;80(11):1228.

Clinical Question

Does preoperative testing before cataract surgery lead to fewer perioperative adverse events?

Evidence-Based Answer

Routine preoperative testing before cataract surgery does not reduce intraoperative or postoperative complications. (Strength of Recommendation = A, based on consistent and good quality patient-oriented evidence).

Practice Pointers

Family physicians commonly provide preoperative examinations and medical clearance before major surgeries. Preoperative medical testing may include screening electrocardiography, chest radiography, complete blood counts, and serum measurements. For a minor surgery such as cataract surgery, it is unclear which specific laboratory or other tests are necessary.

The researchers in this Cochrane review identified three randomized controlled trials with a total of 21,868 patients. These studies examined rates of intraoperative and postoperative medical adverse events in patients who received routine preoperative medical testing compared with those who did not receive routine testing or those who received selective preoperative testing before cataract surgery. Pooled analysis of these three studies concluded that preoperative medical testing did not reduce the rate of intraoperative (odds ratio [OR] = 1.02; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.85 to 1.22) or postoperative (OR = 0.96; 95% CI, 0.74 to 1.24) medical adverse events compared with selective or no testing. No significant differences were reported in the rate or types of intraoperative and postoperative ocular adverse events in the preoperative testing group compared with the selective or no testing groups. There were no differences in postoperative hospitalizations (OR = 0.83; 95% CI, 0.49 to 1.42) and deaths (OR = 0.50; 95% CI, 0.05 to 5.52). One study also examined testing costs, and it found that those who had routine preoperative medical testing incurred costs 2.5 times higher than the costs for those who had selective preoperative testing.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends against routine medical tests before cataract surgery, although pre-operative medical tests can be ordered when indicated by findings on a patient's history or physical examination.1 The American Heart Association recommends against the use of routine testing in asymptomatic patients undergoing low-risk procedures such as cataract surgery because the cardiac risk associated with low-risk procedures is generally less than 1 percent.2

Author disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Keay L, Lindsley K, Tielsch J, Katz J, Schein O. Routine preoperative medical testing for cataract surgery. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(2):CD007293.


1. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Routine pre-operative laboratory testing for patients scheduled for cataract surgery. January 2000. Accessed October 2, 2009.

2. Eagle KA, Berger PB, Calkins H, et al. ACC/AHA guideline update for perioperative cardiovascular evaluation for noncardiac surgery—executive summary: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines (Committee to Update the 1996 Guidelines on Perioperative Cardiovascular Evaluation for Noncardiac Surgery) [published correction appears in J Am Coll Cardiol. 2006;47(11):2356]. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2002;39(3):542–553.



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