Changes in Performance of Glaucoma Surgeries 1994 through 2017 Based on Claims and Payment Data for United States Medicare Beneficiaries

Date Published:

2021 Sep-Oct


PURPOSE: To evaluate trends in glaucoma procedures in the United States Medicare population and to evaluate which physicians are performing newer procedures. DESIGN: Analysis of publicly available claims and payment data. PARTICIPANTS: Surgeons and beneficiaries enrolled in United States Medicare between 1994 and 2017. METHODS: Data regarding payments to physicians by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were downloaded for the years 2012 through 2017. Data regarding claims to CMS by physicians were requested and processed between 1994 and 2017. Procedure counts from both data sets then were normalized for changes in the Medicare population, with 1995 as the baseline. The normalized volumes of procedures over time were visualized, as were geographic distributions of surgeons and their volume of procedures. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Trends in procedure counts over time, geographic distribution of surgeons, and their volume of procedures. RESULTS: The number of trabeculectomies continues to decline and now is similar to the number of tubes. Use of the relatively new trabecular bypass shunts has increased rapidly. Surgeons performing these procedures are less likely to be performing traditional glaucoma surgeries as well. The number of laser-based cyclodestruction procedures increased after introduction of the endoscopic technique and again with the introduction of so-called micropulse procedures. The procedure counts obtained with physician payment data consistently are lower than those from claims data given the limitations of the payment data. CONCLUSIONS: Glaucoma practice patterns change each time a new device or procedure is introduced. Collectively, the use of new microinvasive glaucoma surgery procedures has increased rapidly such that they now account for a significant majority of glaucoma surgeries. Given the almost complete lack of comparative data to inform surgeon choices regarding these procedures, it will be important that randomized studies are carried out to fill this gap.

Last updated on 09/30/2021