Associate Professor Nigel Morlet, Julie Crewe, William Morgan, Antony Clark, Jonathon Ng, Aqif Mukhtar, Margaret Crowley, James Semmens
To better understand the burden of blinding eye disease on the health service.
We compared the health service utilization rates of a cohort of people who were legally blind (LogMAR > 1 or an equivalent field loss in the better eye) with age and gender matched sighted controls. Controls were randomly selected from the Western Australian electoral roll. Data for both cohorts were obtained using linked health data from the Western Australian hospital emergency departments (January 2002–January 2011), hospital morbidity (July 1999–January 2011), cancer and death registries.
The blind cohort consisted of 2282 individu-als of which 945 (41.5%) were male. The mean age when first registered legally blind was 73.2 years (median 80.0 years, range 0–103 years). During the study period 270 (28%) males and 359 (27%) females died. There were 9916 separate attendances at emer-gency departments, 1168 (12%) cardiac related, 1131(11%) involved injuries, wounds or bone frac-tures, 17 for burns and 35 incidents of poisoning. At least one confirmed cancer record was found in 403 (18%) individuals who were blind, including four chil-dren. Overall there were 33,100 in-hospital events. Only 49 (2.1%) of the people who were legally blind had no contact with the emergency or in-hospital health services during the study period.
The health service utilization by people who are legally blind was common, utilization records of this large cohort will allow for a better understand-ing of the extent of the burden of blindness within the health service.