Prevalence of Diabetic Retinopathy in Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Mark A. Chia, Joshua R. Taylor, Kelsey V. Stuart, Anthony P. Khawaja, Paul J. Foster, Pearse A. Keane, Angus W. Turner

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Topic: This systematic review and meta-analysis summarizes evidence relating to the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy (DR) among Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.Clinical Relevance: Indigenous Australians suffer disproportionately from diabetes-related complications. Exploring ethnic variation in disease is important for equitable distribution of resources and may lead to identification of ethnic-specific modifiable risk factors. Existing DR prevalence studies comparing Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians have shown conflicting results.Methods: This study was conducted following Joanna Briggs Institute guidance on systematic reviews of prevalence studies (PROSPERO ID: CRD42022259048). We performed searches of Medline (Ovid), EMBASE, and Web of Science until October 2021, using a strategy designed by an information specialist. We included studies reporting DR prevalence among diabetic patients in Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian populations. Two independent reviewers performed quality assessments using a 9-item appraisal tool. Meta-analysis and meta-regression were performed using double arcsine transformation and a random-effects model comparing Indigenous and non-Indigenous subgroups.Results: Fifteen studies with 8219 participants met criteria for inclusion. The Indigenous subgroup scored lower on the appraisal tool than the non-Indigenous subgroup (mean score 50% vs. 72%, P = 0.04). In the unadjusted meta-analysis, DR prevalence in the Indigenous subgroup (30.2%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 24.9-35.7) did not differ significantly (P = 0.17) from the non-Indigenous subgroup (23.7%; 95% CI, 16.8-31.4). After adjusting for age and quality, DR prevalence was higher in the Indigenous subgroup (P < 0.01), with prevalence ratio point estimates ranging from 1.72 to 2.58, depending on the meta-regression model. For the secondary outcomes, prevalence estimates were higher in the Indigenous subgroup for diabetic macular edema (DME) (8.7% vs. 2.7%, P = 0.02) and vision-threatening DR (VTDR) (8.6% vs. 3.0%, P = 0.03) but not for proliferative DR (2.5% vs. 0.8%, P = 0.07).Conclusions: Indigenous studies scored lower for methodological quality, raising the possibility that sys-tematic differences in research practices may be leading to underestimation of disease burden. After adjusting for age and quality, we found a higher DR prevalence in the Indigenous subgroup. This contrasts with a previous review that reported the opposite finding of lower DR prevalence using unadjusted pooled estimates. Future epidemio-logical work exploring DR burden in Indigenous communities should aim to address methodological weaknesses identified by this review. Ophthalmology 2023;130:56-67 (c) 2022 by the American Academy of Ophthalmology. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-67
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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