Background: The United States officially entered a recession in December 2007, and it officially exited the recession in December 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Since the economy may affect not only the volume of excimer laser refractive surgery, but also the clinical characteristics of patients undergoing surgery, our goal was to compare the characteristics of patients completing excimer laser refractive surgery and the types of procedures performed in the summer quarter in 2007 and the same quarter in 2009 at an academic center. A secondary goal was to determine whether the volume of astigmatism- or presbyopia-correcting intraocular lenses (IOLs) has concurrently changed because like laser refractive surgery, these "premium" IOLs involve out-of-pocket costs for patients. Methods. Retrospective case series. Medical records were reviewed for all patients completing surgery at the Wilmer Laser Vision Center in the summer quarter of 2007 and the summer quarter of 2009. Outcome measures were the proportions of treated refractive errors, the proportion of photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) vs. laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK), and the mean age of patients in each quarter. Chi-square test was used to compare the proportions of treated refractive errors and the proportions of procedures; two-tailed t-test to compare the mean age of patients; and two-tailed z-test to compare proportions of grouped refractive errors in 2007 vs. 2009; alpha = 0.05 for all tests. Refractive errors were grouped by the spherical equivalent of the manifest refraction and were considered "low myopia" for 6 diopters (D) of myopia or less, "high myopia" for more than 6 D, and "hyperopia" for any hyperopia. Billing data were reviewed to obtain the volume of premium IOLs. Results: Volume of laser refractive procedures decreased by at least 30%. The distribution of proportions of treated refractive errors did not change (p = 0.10). The proportion of high myopes, however, decreased (p = 0.05). The proportions of types of procedure changed, with an increase in the proportion of PRK between 2007 and 2009 (p = 0.02). The mean age of patients did not change [42.4 14.4 (standard deviation) years in 2007 vs. 39.6 14.5 years in 2009; p = 0.4]. Astigmatism-correcting IOL and presbyopia-correcting IOL volumes increased 15-fold and three-fold, respectively, between 2007 and 2009. Conclusions: Volume of excimer laser refractive surgery decreased by at least 30% between 2007 and 2009. No significant change in mean age or in the distribution of refractive error was seen, although the proportion of high myopes decreased between summer quarters of 2007 and 2009. PRK gained as a proportion of total cases. Premium IOL volume increased, but still comprised a very small proportion of total IOL volume.
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