Purpose To evaluate preoperative characteristics and follow-up in rural China after trabeculectomy, the primary treatment for glaucoma there.
Methods Patients undergoing trabeculectomy at 14 rural hospitals in Guangdong and Guangxi Provinces and their doctors completed questionnaires concerning clinical and sociodemographic information, transportation, and knowledge and attitudes about glaucoma. Follow-up after surgery was assessed as cumulative score (1 week: 10 points, 2 weeks: 7 points, 1 month: 5 points).
Results Among 212 eligible patients, mean preoperative presenting acuity in the operative eye was 6/120, with 61.3% (n=130) blind (≤6/60). Follow-up rates were 60.8% (129/212), 75.9% (161/212) and 26.9% (57/212) at 1 week, 2 weeks and 1 month, respectively. Patient predictors of poor follow-up included elementary education or less (OR=0.37, 95% CI 0.20 to 0.70, p=0.002), believing follow-up was not important (OR=0.62, 95% CI 0.41 to 0.94, p=0.02), lack of an accompanying person (OR=0.14, 95% CI 0.07 to 0.29, p<0.001), family annual income <US$800 (OR=0.28, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.72, p=0.008) and not requiring removal of scleral flap sutures postoperatively (OR=0.11, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.22, p<0.001). Age, sex, employment, travel distance/time/costs, patient preoperative clinical factors and physician factors were unassociated with follow-up.
Conclusions Follow-up after 2 weeks was inadequate to provide optimal clinical care, and surgery is being applied too late to avoid blindness in the majority of patients. Earlier surgery, support for return visits and better explanations of the importance of follow-up are needed. Directing all patients to return for possible scleral flap suture removal may be a valid strategy to improve follow-up.