Thursday 3 August 2017

Cataract Surgery - one down, one to go

At the start of last year I noticed I was tending to polish my glasses a lot, as the right hand lens often seemed to be a bit smudged. So I wasn't particularly surprised when the optometrist confirmed during an eye test last March that I was developing a cataract in my right eye*. I'd also noticed an obstruction when viewing pistol shooting targets in bright light when the aperture of my shooting glasses was reduced to less than a mm. It looked a bit like a piece of fluff or organic growth in the middle of the shooting glasses aperture...

Anyhow, I put up with my right eye's vision getting progressively less clear (especially in bright light) until March this year, when I decided to get a referral from my GP to an opthamologist. In the initial check-up last month it was confirmed that I had a pretty advanced cataract in my right eye, and there were early signs of it also developing in my left eye (but so far not affecting the vision noticeably). So I decided to go ahead and get cataract surgery done on both eyes (the operation replaces the lens inside each eye, so will correct my distance vision (I currently need bifocals as I've always been short-sighted, and in recent years also had difficulty focussing on computer screens - my natural range of clear focus was restricted to about 8cm-30cm!).

I had the operation on my right eye last Monday afternoon, and was back at work on Tuesday and had a check-up on Tuesday afternoon. The results were pretty amazing - my distance vision in my right eye is now very bright and clear (better than in my left eye wearing glasses) and is pretty good down to about 2m away. Closer than that it is still in sharp focus, but unfortunately it is blurred with multiple images at close range. Hopefully that will be correctly by getting new 'reading glasses' once my left eye operation has been done in a couple of week's time.

The operation on my right eye cost about $2400, with a refund from medicare of almost $800 leaving me $1600 'out of pocket'. The day surgery private hospital fee also cost around $2000, but was fully refunded by the private health insurance provided by my employer. I expect I'll also get a bill of around $700 from the anaesthetist, but will get some of that refunded by the private health cover and medicare.

The operation on my left eye later this month will cost similar amounts, although I'll get a larger proportion of the $2400 surgeon bill refunded by medicare (due to reaching some 'threshold' amount of 'out of pocket' annual expenses).

So, the whole process has been quite successful (so far), rather expensive (even with full private health cover) and fairly painless. I could have opted to get the surgery done in a 'public hospital' under medicare, but there still would have been some 'gap' payments due, a 6-12 month waiting list for this 'elective' surgery, and no choice of surgeon. And of course in the public hospital system there are always a chance that your operation will be part of the training of a new surgeon, which increases the chances of a less than ideal outcome. Overall, when it comes to having knives inserted into my eyes, I'm happy to spend a bit more in order to maximize the probability of a good outcome!

* I'm a bit young to be getting cataracts, but a lifetime of topical steroid medications for severe eczema was a known risk factor.

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