Prospective study of glaucoma referrals across Europe: are we using resources wisely?

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Abstract

Background

To investigate the outcomes of glaucoma referrals across different European countries.

Methods

250 patients newly referred to tertiary referral glaucoma specialist practices in the UK, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy and Greece were prospectively enrolled (50 consecutive patients per centre). Referral accuracy and predictive value of referral criteria for an intervention or further monitoring (positive predictive value) were analysed.

Results

Same-day discharges occurred in 43% (95% CI 39% to 75%) (12/28) of optometrist-initiated referrals (UK only), 37% (95% CI 30% to 45%) (59/158) of ophthalmologist-initiated referrals (all centres) and 54% (95% CI 40% to 68%) (26/48) of self-referrals (Hungary, Italy and Greece). The percentages from all referral sources were 46% (95% CI 32% to 60%) in the UK, 56% (95% CI 44% to 70%) in Hungary, 30% (95% CI 17% to 43%) in Slovenia, 22% (95% CI 11% to 34%) in Italy and 60% (95% CI 46% to 74%) in Greece (p<0.001). Overall, the referring criterion was confirmed in 54% (95% CI 45% to 63%) (64/119) for intraocular pressure (IOP) >21 mm Hg, 56% (95% CI 43% to 69%) (33/59) for a suspicious optic disc and 61% (95% CI 45% to 77%) (22/36) for a suspicious visual field, with large between-country differences (p<0.05 for all comparisons). Of all referrals, 32% (95% CI 26% to 37%) were initiated on the basis of IOP >21 mm Hg only. By combining the IOP criterion with any other referring criterion, the positive predictive value increased from 56% (95% CI 45% to 67%) to at least 89% (95% CI 68% to 100%). In the UK, a hypothetical IOP threshold of >26 mm Hg, as a requirement for IOP-only referrals, would reduce IOP-only referrals by 44%, while not missing any definite glaucoma cases.

Conclusion

The accuracy of referrals was poor in the UK and the other countries. Requiring a combination of criteria and raising the IOP threshold for IOP-only referrals are needed to cut waste in clinical care.

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