Talk to the Veterans Crisis Line now
U.S. flag
An official website of the United States government

VA Health Systems Research

Go to the VA ORD website
Go to the QUERI website

HSR&D Citation Abstract

Search | Search by Center | Search by Source | Keywords in Title

Variability and Costs of Low-Value Preoperative Testing for Cataract Surgery Within the Veterans Health Administration.

Mudumbai SC, Pershing S, Bowe T, Kamal RN, Sears ED, Hawn MT, Eisenberg D, Finlay AK, Hagedorn H, Harris AHS. Variability and Costs of Low-Value Preoperative Testing for Cataract Surgery Within the Veterans Health Administration. JAMA Network Open. 2021 May 3; 4(5):e217470.

Dimensions for VA is a web-based tool available to VA staff that enables detailed searches of published research and research projects.

If you have VA-Intranet access, click here for more information

VA staff not currently on the VA network can access Dimensions by registering for an account using their VA email address.
   Search Dimensions for VA for this citation
* Don't have VA-internal network access or a VA email address? Try searching the free-to-the-public version of Dimensions


Importance: The Choosing Wisely guidelines indicate that preoperative testing is often unnecessary and wasteful for patients undergoing cataract operations. However, little is known about the impact of these widely disseminated guidelines within the US Veterans Health Administration (VHA) system. Objective: To examine the extent, variability, associated factors, and costs of low-value tests (LVTs) prior to cataract operations in the VHA. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cohort study examined records of all patients receiving cataract operations within the VHA in fiscal year 2017 (October 1, 2016, to September 31, 2017). Records from 135 facilities nationwide supporting both ambulatory and inpatient surgery were included. Exposures: A laboratory test occurring within 30 days prior to cataract surgery and within 30 days after clinic evaluation. Main Outcomes and Measures: Overall national and facility-level rates and associated costs of receiving any of 8 common LVTs in the 30 days prior to cataract surgery. The patient characteristics, procedure type, and facility-level factors associated with receiving at least 1 test, the number of tests received, and receipt of a bundle of 4 tests (complete blood count, basic metabolic profile, chest radiograph, and electrocardiogram). Results: A total of 69 070 cataract procedures were identified among 50 106 patients (66 282 [96.0%] men; mean [SD] age, 71.7 [8.1] years; 53 837 [77.9%] White, 10 292 [14.9%] Black). Most of the patient population had either overweight (23 292 [33.7%] patients) or obesity (27 799 [40.2%] patients). Approximately 49% of surgical procedures (33 424 procedures) were preceded by 1 or more LVT with an overall LVT cost of $2 597 623. Among patients receiving LVTs, electrocardiography (7434 patients [29.9%]) was the most common, with some patients also receiving more costly tests, including chest radiographs (489 patients [8.2%]) and pulmonary function tests (127 patients [3.4%]). For receipt of any LVT, the intraclass correlation coefficient was 0.61 (P < .001) at the facility level and 0.06 (P < .001) at the surgeon level, indicating the substantial contribution of the facility to amount of tests given. Conclusions and Relevance: Despite existing guidelines, use of LVTs prior to cataract surgery is both common and costly within a large, national integrated health care system. Our results suggest that publishing evidence-based guidelines alone-such as the Choosing Wisely campaign-may not sufficiently influence individual physician behavior, and that system-level efforts to directly deimplement LVTs may therefore necessary to effect sustained change.

Questions about the HSR website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.