Is LASIK safe?

Some frank discussion about how safe LASIK is

This is one of the most common questions we hear in the office and for good reason. Your vision is one of the most precious things in your life, and your eyes are among the most delicate organs in your body. These deserve the very best care.

While our surgeons perform every kind of refractive eye surgery safely and effectively, our most common LASIK procedure is all-laser, 100% blade-free LASIK. This method replaces the hand-held micro-keratome blade that is traditionally used in LASIK surgery with a computer-guided, ultra-fast femtosecond laser to create the corneal flap. Not only does this method consistent achieve better vision results (in some cases better than 20/20), it is proven to improve safety, virtually eliminating potential flap complications. The most common femtosecond laser is manufactured by IntraLase, but at Wills Laser Vision, we use a newer and even more advanced laser called the Alcon FemtoSecond 200 which provides a more comfortable and quicker experience which is both more gentle and more accurate than other lasers.

allegretto eye-q 400 lasik laserFor the sculpting, we use the Allegretto 400 Eye-Q, which again is a faster laser that is the most accurate in the industry. During the process, a "tracker" will follow every infinitessimal movement of your eye and make continual adjustments to keep the laser centered over your visual axis. If the tracker senses a large movement, it immediately turns the laser off before the next pulse. If this happens, the laser is simply re-focused and the treatment will pick up where it left off.

Of course, every step along the way your doctor will work with you to explain exactly what you need to do to prepare for surgery, what to expect during surgery, and how to properly care for your eyes after your surgery. Their goal will be to make sure you are fully prepared mentally and physically for your surgery.

After surgery, it is possible to experience side-effects such as a mild burning or itching sensation, or the feeling that something is in your eye. Other possible side-effects include mild discomfort or pain; blurred or hazy vision; scratchiness, dryness, and glare; haloes or starbursts around lights; light sensitivity; or small pink or red spots on the white of the eye. These normally disappear over time. The doctor and staff will provide you a list of very important instructions after surgery: these include avoiding swimming, hot tubs, and whirlpools for two weeks after surgery; and making sure NOT to rub your eyes. If you experience pain, redness, or bothersome and unusual side effects, you should report it to your doctor immediately.

Many patients have questions about long-term safety. Dr. Michael Wong likes to point out that after the healing of LASIK is complete, what's left behind is a normal cornea. The cornea gets its oxygen directly from the atmosphere and nature cleans the cornea mostly by blinking away the germs and dirt before they can adhere to the cornea. In other words, for most people, LASIK is safer than wearing contact lenses, which blocks oxygen delivery to your cornea and can even trap germs and debris!

Millions of people in the United States have had successful LASIK surgery. But as with any surgery, complications can occur. These are rare, and your doctor will explain them in full. Most complications can be easily treated.

In general amongst LASIK practices in the United States, the most common complication is over- or under-response resulting in a residual focusing error (at Wills Laser Vision, this is largely mitigated with the improved accuracy of the Allegretto excimer laser). This problem can often be improved with additional laser surgery or with glasses or contact lenses. A second laser surgery (enhancement) for an under- or over-response is performed when your vision has stabilized, which can take several months.

Your doctor will discuss other, less common complications with you during your evaluation; some of these are listed on the FDA's Web site. The FDA's page also contains some good advice about how to go about finding the right doctor. Beware of choosing a LASIK provider based on cost or marketing message; where your eyes are concerned, you get what you pay for. Learn more about why you can trust your eyes to Wills Laser Vision and what makes us special.