Ophthalmology procedure trends in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



International ophthalmology




COVID-19; Epidemiology; Ophthalmology; Public health; SARS-CoV-2; Surgery trends


PURPOSE: To evaluate the relationship between the COVID-19 pandemic and ophthalmic procedural volume. METHODS: A retrospective cohort study using TriNetX, a federated electronic health record's research network was done. Monthly Current Procedural Terminology-specific volumes per healthcare organization were clustered chronologically to calculate average volumes into 3-month seasons to calculate average procedural volumes. An aggregate of the total pandemic period (March 2020-August 2021) was compared to corresponding figures in pre-pandemic timeframes. RESULTS: Intravitreal injections were the most prevalent procedure in this time period with 320,106 occurrences. Phacoemulsification cataract surgery was the second most prevalent (N = 176,095) procedure. From March 2020 to August 2021, a mean pandemic volume of 266.7 (SD = 15) was observed, a 5% decrease (p < 0.05) in procedures compared to the pre-pandemic mean of 280.8 (SD = 26.1). Spring 2020 exhibited the sharpest seasonal decrease in procedural volume (- 88%). The largest count of statistically significant increases in procedure volume was in Spring 2021 (+ 18%). The aggregate mean volume per HCO showed significant decreases for 11 out of 17 procedures in the 12 month March 2020-February 2021 timeframe and significant decreases for 10 out of 17 procedures over the 18-month March 2020-August 2021 pandemic period. CONCLUSIONS: This study highlights the relative inverse relationship between COVID-19 cases and ophthalmic procedure volume in America. Quantifying ophthalmic procedure trends is important in retrospectively assessing surgical disruptions and prospectively accommodating delayed surgeries. Furthermore, awareness of these trends could help ophthalmologists prepare should similar disruptions occur in the setting of future pandemics or national disasters.