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Glaucoma Surgeries Increasing in Recent Years

Though surgical procedures are on the rise, Medicare payments have been falling

WEDNESDAY, July 15 (HealthDay News) -- Surgical treatments for glaucoma appear to be increasing in number since the late 1990s, despite decreasing Medicare payments, according to research published in the July issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Jordana K. Schmier, of Exponent Inc. in Alexandria, Va., and colleagues analyzed 1997 to 2006 data from the Part B Medicare Beneficiary Encrypted Files to identify changes in payments for common glaucoma surgeries in older individuals.

The data indicated that from 1997 to 2001, the number of glaucoma surgical procedures and amount of annual payments fell overall, but the number of procedures rose in subsequent years. The average payment per claim fell by 36 percent from 1997 to 2006. However, findings suggested that average payments per claim had little association with the decision to perform particular procedures.

"Medicare payments remain an important component of the cost of glaucoma in the United States and the overall trend toward lower-cost surgical procedures (i.e., fewer trabeculectomies) despite the increased use of newer technologies (i.e., more glaucoma drainage devices) observed in this analysis may have a substantial impact on national glaucoma expenses. Further advances and the application of new technologies may help to moderate the cost of providing glaucoma care to all who require it," the authors conclude.

Several co-authors reported financial relationships with Alcon Research Ltd., which funded the study.

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