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National trends in surgical subspecialisation in ophthalmology in the USA


Background/aims To assess surgical patterns in ophthalmology by subspecialty in the USA.

Methods Ophthalmic surgeons were categorised as comprehensive/subspecialist based on billed procedures in the 2017–2018 Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data. Poisson regression models assessed factors associated with physicians performing surgeries in the core domain (eg, cataract extractions) and subspecialty domain. Models were adjusted for provider gender, time since graduation, geographical region, practice setting and hospital affiliation.

Results There were 10 346 ophthalmic surgeons, 74.7% comprehensive and 25.3% subspecialists. Cataract extractions were performed by 6.0%, 9.9%, 21.0%, 88.1% and 95.3% of specialists in surgical retina, neuro-ophthalmology/paediatrics, oculoplastics, glaucoma and cornea, respectively. Retina specialists were more likely to perform cataract surgery if they were 20–30 or>30 years in practice (relative risk: 2.20 (95% CI: 1.17 to 4.12) and 3.74 (95% CI: 1.80 to 7.76), respectively) or in a non-metropolitan setting (3.78 (95% CI: 1.71 to 8.38)). Among oculoplastics specialists, male surgeons (2.71 (95% CI: 1.36 to 5.42)), those in practice 10–20 years or 20–30 years (1.93 (95% CI: 1.15 to 3.26) and 1.91 (95% CI: 1.11 to 3.27), respectively) and in non-metropolitan settings (3.07 (95% CI: 1.88 to 5.02)) were more likely to perform cataract surgery. Only 26 of the 2620 subspecialists performed surgeries in two or more subspecialty domains.

Conclusions There is a trend towards surgical subspecialisation in ophthalmology in the USA whereby some surgeons focus their surgical practice on subspecialty procedures and rarely perform surgeries in the core domain.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. See above.

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