OBJECTIVE— To determine the proportion of patients with suspected proliferative diabetic retinopathy who did not receive the recommended follow-up ophthalmological evaluation and care, and to examine associations between various patient characteristics and the failure to obtain care.

RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS— The study cohort included all Navajo Indians identified by a retrospective review of records who had proliferative diabetic retinopathy diagnosed at an Indian Health Service Optometry Clinic between 1 October 1985 and 30 September 1988. Follow-up data were obtained by medical record reviews and by interviews with subjects.

RESULTS— Of 69 patients identified, 57 of 61 living patients were interviewed. Twenty-three (40.4%) had failed to obtain recommended follow-up. The RR for incomplete treatment among those without a vehicle in the household compared with those with a vehicle was 1.91 (95% CI 1.32–2.76). Other factors associated with incomplete treatment were female sex and marital status other than currently married. Twelve (21%) patients answered “no” to the question, “Have you been told that diabetes was affecting your eyes?” Eight of 38 (21%) who confirmed that they had been told that diabetes was affecting their eyes responded “no” to the question, “Do you think that diabetes is affecting your eyes?” However, the answers to these questions did not distinguish between patients who obtained or did not obtain recommended care.

CONCLUSIONS— Interventions to increase the proportion of Navajo Indians with diabetic retinopathy who receive appropriate ophthalmologic care must address the issue of transportation.

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