AIMS: A nationwide diabetic retinopathy (DR) screening program has been established in Denmark since 2013. We aimed to perform an evaluation of adherence to DR screenings and to examine whether non-adherence was correlated to DR progression.
METHODS: The population consisted of a register-based cohort, who participated in the screening program from 2013 to 2018. We analyzed age, gender, marital status, DR level (International Clinical DR severity scale, none, mild-, moderate-, severe non-proliferative DR (NPDR) and proliferative DR (PDR)), comorbidities and socioeconomic factors. The attendance pattern of patients was grouped as either timely (no delays > 33%), delayed (delays > 33%) or one-time attendance (unexplained).
RESULTS: We included 205,970 patients with 591,136 screenings. Rates of timely, delayed and one-time attendance were 53.0%, 35.5% and 11.5%, respectively. DR level at baseline was associated with delays (mild-, moderate-, severe NPDR and PDR) and one-time attendance (moderate-, severe NPDR and PDR) with relative risk ratios (RRR) of 1.68, 2.27, 3.14, 2.44 and 1.18, 2.07, 1.26, respectively (P < 0.05). Delays at previous screenings were associated with progression to severe NPDR or PDR (hazard ratio (HR) 2.27, 6.25 and 12.84 for 1, 2 and 3+ delays, respectively). Any given delay doubled the risk of progression (HR 2.28).
CONCLUSIONS: In a national cohort of 205,970 patients, almost half of the patients attended DR screening later than scheduled or dropped out after first screening episode. This was, in particular, true for patients with any levels of DR at baseline. DR progression in patients with delayed attendance, increased with the number of missed appointments.