Purpose: To investigate the impact of coronavirus infection disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic on ophthalmic referrals within an academic tertiary center in Oman. Methods: Retrospective chart review of internal referrals received and evaluated by the ophthalmology department between March 1and August 31, 2020 (COVID-19 period) compared to a corresponding period in 2019 (pre COVID-19). Data included patient demographics, referral details, ocular diagnosis, intervention, and discharge plan. Results: Referral volume significantly decreased by 58.2%; from 2019 prepandemic to 510 (P = 0.001), with the lowest in April and May 2020. Patient demographics did not differ significantly, but 'urgent' referrals reduced by 96.2% (P < 0.001). Main reasons for referrals were reduced vision and screening in both periods. During pandemic, referrals for screening purposes increased from 30.3% to 37.9% (P = 0.013) and for reduced vision decreased from 30% to 23.3% (P = 0.021). Dry eye syndrome increased in frequency during 2020 (from 2.9% to 7.3%, P = 0.002) but cataracts and conjunctivitis both decreased (from 4.7% to 2.1%, P = 0.046 and from 2.3% to 0.3%, P = 0.013, respectively). Ocular trauma remained stable (from 0.8% to 0.3%, P = 0.456), but the proportion of chemical injuries increased by 13.7% (P = 0.025). There was a drastic decrease in interventions from 37% to 26.1% (P < 0.001) and an increase in discharge rate from 61.2% to 75.8% (P < 0.001). Conclusion: The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on ophthalmic referrals within a tertiary academic centre in oman referral reductions and changes in pattern and characteristics as an epiphenomenon of COVID-19 reflect the extent of impact specifically in an Omani context. This information is vital for planning proper resource utilization, the adoption of innovative care delivery, and improving referral system pathways.
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