Six things you need to know about cataract surgery in 2024

Have you been diagnosed with cataracts? Here’s some important information to consider before you start planning surgery.

1. Being diagnosed with a cataract does not automatically mean you need surgery.

Cataract removal is only recommended if your vision is impaired and affects your ability to carry out daily tasks (e.g. driving, being safe and looking after yourself at home, participating in hobbies).

People with early cataracts can often manage with prescription glasses, low-vision aids and other adjustments (e.g. increased lighting, increased font sizes on digital devices).

2. Cataract surgery is one of the most frequently performed elective operations and can provide important health benefits.

There are around 250,000 cataract operations performed in Australia each year.1

The benefits of cataract surgery can include:1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10,11,12

  • Improved vision and reduced dependence on glasses
  • Reduced risk of falls, fractures and surgical complications
  • Increased safety and confidence
  • Reduced anxiety and depression
  • Continue ability to carry out daily tasks and hobbies
  • Continued ability to work and drive
  • Reduced/delayed need for a nursing home or carer.

3. Most cataract surgeries are performed in private day surgeries, such as those within the Vision Hospital Group network.

In Australia, only around 30% of cataract removals are performed in the public system.13

Having cataract surgery as a private patient provides more flexibility and options. These include:

  • Minimal wait times for consultations and surgery
  • Your choice of surgeon
  • Your choice of surgery date
  • Your choice of lens replacement
  • Private, boutique facilities.

4. The wait time for public patients can be long.

Patients waiting for cataract surgery in the public system should be aware that there is:

  • A wait time to see an ophthalmologist in the outpatient clinic for the initial assessment (sometimes referred to as the ‘hidden waiting list’ or ‘the wait for the wait’)
  • A wait time until the first eye is operated on
  • A wait time until the second eye is operated on.*

* Assumes cataract in both eyes

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) reported that 10.6% of Australians waited longer than 365 days to be admitted for cataract surgery in 2021 to 2022.14 But getting an appointment for the initial assessment can take even longer – sometimes years.2,15

An Australian study found that a third of patients with cataracts in both eyes fell while waiting for surgery in the public system, with half of these falls causing head injuries or fractures.7 If surgery is delayed, some patients eventually stop driving or lose their licence.2

5. Talk with your private health fund before having cataract surgery.

While health insurers pay a rebate towards your cataract surgery, this only applies to certain types of cover with specific waiting periods. Contact your health fund to confirm your level of cover includes cataract surgery, any required waiting periods and any gap payments (e.g. co-payment, excess).

Different funds pay different rebates. Depending on your health fund cover, you may also have gap payments for your cataract surgeon, lens implant (depending on the type you choose) and anaesthetist.

6. Patients without private health insurance can have private cataract surgery.

If you don’t have private health insurance, there are other options to have cataract surgery as a private patient. You can self-fund your surgery using your own funds or sometimes by accessing your superannuation early (visit the Australian Taxation Office for further information).

Cataract surgery is performed at all Vision Hospital Group day surgeries. View our locations here


  1. 1.Keay L, Ho KC, Rogers K et al. The incidence of falls after first and second eye cataract surgery: a longitudinal cohort study. Med J Aust 2022;217(2):94–99. 
  2. 2.Huang-Lung J, Angell B, Palagyi A et al. The true cost of hidden waiting times for cataract surgery in Australia. Public Health Res Pract 2022 Oct 12;32(3):31342116. 
  3. 3.Mahroo O. Rapid Response to Cut useless medical treatments, says Audit Commission: Delaying cataract surgery may be short-sighted. BMJ 2011;342:d2438 
  4. 4.Gimbel H, Dardzhikova A. The consequences of waiting for cataract surgery: a systematic review. Curr Opin Ophthalmol 2011;22(1):28–30. 
  5. 5.Wittenborn JS, Zhang X, Feagan CW et al. The economic burden of vision loss and eye disorders among the United States population younger than 40 years. Ophthalmology 2013;120(9):1728-35. 
  6. 6.Feng YR, Meuleners LB, Fraser ML et al. The impact of first and second eye cataract surgeries on falls: a prospective cohort study. Clin Interv Aging 2018;13:1457–1464. 
  7. 7.Palagyi A, McCluskey P, White A et al. While We Waited: Incidence and Predictors of Falls in Older Adults With Cataract. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 2016;57(14):6003–6010. 
  8. 8.Palagyi A, Morlet N, McCluskey P et al. Visual and refractive associations with falls after first-eye cataract surgery. J Cataract Refract Surg 2017;43(10):1313–1321. 
  9. 9.Keay L, Palagyi A. Preventing falls in older people with cataract – it is not just about surgery. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 2018;38(2):117–118. 
  10. 10.Mennemeyer ST, Owsley C, McGwin G Jr. Reducing older driver motor vehicle collisions via earlier cataract surgery. Accid Anal Prev 2013;61:203-11. 
  11. 11.Agramunt S, Meuleners LB, Fraser ML et al. First and second eye cataract surgery and driver self-regulation among older drivers with bilateral cataract: a prospective cohort study. BMC Geriatr 2018;18(1):51. 
  12. 12.McCarty CA, Nanjan MB, Taylor HR. Vision impairment predicts 5 year mortality. Br J Ophthalmol 2001;85(3):322–6. 
  13. 13.Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Admitted patient activity – Elective admissions involving surgery 2019-20. AIHW; 2020. Available at <> [Accessed online 23 February 2023]. 
  14. 14.Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Elective surgery. AIHW; 2022. Available at <> [Accessed online 23 February 2023]. 
  15. 15.Australian Medical Association (AMA). Shining a light on the elective surgery ‘hidden’ waiting list. AMA; 2022. Available at <> [Accessed online 23 February 2023]. 

The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your doctor for specific medical advice.

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