10 Statistics and Facts About Ophthalmology and Ophthalmologists

1. There are approximately 23,861 ophthalmologists in the United States, according to the American Medical Association.


2. The median salary for ophthalmologists is $325,384, and the average starting salary for ophthalmologists is $215,000, according to the American Medical Group Association's 2009 AMGA Medical Group Compensation and Financial Survey. Here are the average salaries of ophthalmologists by region:

  • East — $285,866
  • West — $321,726
  • South — $310,368
  • North — $354,500

3. Ophthalmologists can perform nearly 100 percent of their procedures in the ASC setting, according to Satish Modi, MD, an ophthalmologist and founding owner of Dutchess Ambulatory Surgery Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Some of the more profitable ophthalmic procedures performed in the ASC setting include phacoemulsification, or cataract removal, phacoemulsification with intraocular lens implantation and certain glaucoma and retina treatments, according to Dr. Modi.

4. Ophthalmology represents 18 percent of the average case volume in surgery centers, second behind GI/endoscopy (25 percent). The average surgery center performs 4,869 cases annually, which would average to around 876 ophthalmology cases annually, according to VMG Health's 2009 Intellimarker.

5. Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures in the United States, with more than 22 million Americans age 40 and older affected by cataracts. By age 80, more than half of all American will have cataracts and had cataract surgery, according to the National Eye Institute. The number of cataract cases is expected to increase in the next 10 years as a result of the aging baby boom generation, according to David Kwiat, MD, an ophthalmologist and part-owner of Fulton County Ambulatory Surgery Center in Johnstown, N.Y.

6. The average total time a patient undergoing a cataract removal spends in an ambulatory facility is 117 minutes (from check-in to discharge), according to the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care Institute for Quality Improvement's Performance Measurement and Benchmarking in Ambulatory Organizations survey. The average time from check-in to the beginning of the procedure (incision) is 81 minutes. The average procedure takes 14 minutes and the average recovery time is 22 minutes.

7. The average gross charges for ophthalmology cases performed in the ASC are $5,385. The average case revenue is $1,226, according to VMG Health's 2009 Intellimarker.

8. Here is the average 2008 Medicare sub charge (submitted charges divided by allowed services), average allow charge (Medicare-allowed charges divided by allowed services, including co-pays and deductibles paid by patient), and average payment (Medicare payments divided by allowed services, not including co-pays and deductibles paid by patient) for two ophthalmology procedures commonly performed in ASCs.

CPT copyright 2008 American Medical Association. All rights reserved. CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association.

  • Post-cataract laser surgery (CPT 66821)
    - average sub charge: $1,019
    - average allow charge: $282
    - average payment: $221
  • Cataract removal, insertion of lens (CPT 66984)
    - average sub charge: $2,99
    - average allow charge $964
    - average payment: $763


9. Ophthalmology cases have the highest rate of incorrect procedures within the operating room, according to a study in the Nov. 2009 issue of the Archives of Surgery. The study found that 1.8 adverse events were reported per 10,000, more so than any other surgical specialty.

10. There are seven recognized subspecialties within ophthalmology, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. They include: cornea and external disease, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, ophthalmic pathology, ophthalmic plastic surgery, pediatric ophthalmology and vitreoretinal diseases.

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