Cataract surgeries in EU down 4 % in 2021

September 12, 2023

The two most common surgical operations and procedures performed in EU hospitals (out of all surgical operations and procedures for which data are collected) are cataract surgery and caesarean sections

In 2021, cataract surgery was the most common surgical operation in the EU, performed 4.32 million times across the EU countries, marking a 4 % decrease from 2019 (4.49 million), before the COVID-19 pandemic led to general delays across medical specialities both in consults and surgeries.

France recorded the highest rate of cataract surgery per 100000 inhabitants in 2021: 1417 times per 100 000 inhabitants. France was followed by Austria (1340 times per 100000 inhabitants), Estonia (1 310), Luxembourg (1 286) and Czechia (1 253).

In contrast, cataract surgery was performed only 261 times per 100000 inhabitants in Romania. The rates were also low in Hungary (480 times per 100000 inhabitants), Malta (509), Poland (528) and Bulgaria (662).

In-patient cataract surgery declined in nearly all EU countries

In 2021, in 19 EU countries, less than 10% of cataract surgeries were carried out as in-patient procedures. The lowest rates were recorded in Cyprus (0.2 %), Slovenia (0.4 %), Spain (0.7 %) and Denmark (0.9 %). Conversely, more than half of the cataract surgery performed on in-patients were registered in Bulgaria (55.2 %) and Romania (54.5 %). Between 2011 and 2021, the proportion of in-patient procedures for cataract surgery decreased in nearly all EU countries for which data are available, except for Finland (+0.6 percentage points pp) and Estonia (+0.5 pp).

1.14 million caesarean sections performed in the EU in 2021

Caesarean sections were another common surgical procedure with at least 1.14 million performed in the EU in 2021, a similar value to the one registered in 2019.

In most of the EU countries, there were between 150 and 400 caesarean sections performed per 100 000 inhabitants in 2021. Cyprus registered the highest proportion, with 687 caesarean sections performed per 100 000 inhabitants, followed by Romania (448), Ireland (428), Bulgaria (396) and Poland (371). On the other hand, caesarean sections were less frequent in the Netherlands (148 caesarean sections performed per 100000 inhabitants, 2019 data), Spain (172), Lithuania (176), Finland (186) and Slovenia (193).

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Methodological notes:

  • EU figures exclude data from Greece.
  • Cataract surgery – ICD-9-CM codes 13.1–13.8, the extraction of the lens from an eye.
  • Caesarean section – ICD-9-CM codes 74.0–74.2, 74.4 and 74.99, which is the delivery of one or more babies through an incision in a mother’s abdomen and uterus.
  • Surgical procedures are all types of medical interventions involving an incision with instruments mostly performed in an operating theatre, which normally involves anaesthesia and/or respiratory assistance. Surgical procedures can be performed as in-patient cases, day cases or out-patient cases.
  • It should be noted that data are presented in this article for 2021. As such, this article includes data that may have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its related restrictions. For this reason, particular attention should be paid when comparing the 2021 data with data from earlier years. In some EU Member States, healthcare activities were impacted (particularly at the start of the pandemic) by an influx of patients with COVID-19. The pandemic also resulted in a range of knock-on effects including, among others, some services being curtailed/postponed due to the number of COVID-19 patients, staff shortages within hospitals and daycare centres due to infection/quarantine procedures, and patients being hindered in accessing medical services due to their own infection/quarantine as well as lockdown or travel restrictions.
  • Greece: data not available.
  • The Netherlands: 2019 data.
  • Malta: 2020 data, excluding some small private hospitals.
  • Luxembourg: provisional data for cataract surgery.
  • Cyprus: incomplete coverage for cataract surgery, as includes only public hospitals and procedures recorded during discharge. Excludes outpatients.
  • Portugal: includes in-patients only for caesarean section.
  • Spain: provisional data for caesarean section.