In the past two decades, LASIK technique has seen remarkable developments
Safety. Precision. Customization. Affordability. Sound like good things? They are. And they also characterize today’s LASIK Eye Surgery. As doubts about the procedure vanish, more and more professionals — including law enforcement officers, military personnel, and athletes — are discovering the advantages of LASIK. These professionals are saying goodbye to eyeglasses and contacts, and never looking back.
How do you know if LASIK is right for you? A good place to start is learning about the history — and future — of the procedure. Additionally, it’s important to select the right surgeon. A great LASIK surgeon is one who can configure the laser, based on the pre-operative measurements, to a patient’s specific vision correction needs.
Right off the bat, it’s important to note that 94% of nearsighted patients, with a prescription of -7 or better, achieve 20/20 vision following treatment.
Original LASIK Technique
A typical human cornea varies in thickness from 500 to 600 micrometers. How do you perform surgery on a surface so small? Answer: a precision surgical instrument called a microkeratome, which contains an oscillating blade so small that it’s no thicker than a human hair. Surgeons use this instrument to create a hinged corneal flap somewhere between 80 and 200 micrometers thick. Doctors then fold back the corneal flap, providing access to the next ingredient in this revolutionary procedure: the laser. The original laser, approved by the FDA for use in LASIK surgery in 1999, was called an excimer. Surgeons used this laser to re-shape the cornea, correcting the cause of the vision problem. After correcting the corneal shape, the eye specialists then returned the flap to its natural position, which covered the cornea and effectively acted as a natural bandage.
Current LASIK Eye Surgery Best-Practices
Today, there’s an even more advanced laser used in LASIK surgery: a femtosecond laser. Studies have shown that the femtosecond laser allows for more predictable corneal flap thickness, a decreased risk of corneal abrasions during the procedure, and a decreased risk of induced astigmatism after LASIK. It also gives the surgeon more options in terms of flap size, shape, and orientation, yielding a more customized procedure, as well as a faster healing time thanks to the smoother edges of the flap. In other words, a win-win for your eyes.
The first excimer lasers used for LASIK employed broad-beam, UV lasers to reshape the cornea using a predetermined pattern based on the patient’s correction needs. The lasers included eye-tracking technology, which allowed the laser to follow involuntary eye movement.
In 2002, LASIK technology took its next big step with the introduction of Wavefront technology. Wavefront uses something called the VISX CustomVue System, allowing for custom mapping of a patient’s cornea, which is as unique as a fingerprint. That’s right — your cornea is as uniquely “you” as your fingerprint. Suddenly, the treatment could exceed the vision results achieved by glasses and contacts. In other words, not only is LASIK replacing eyeglasses — it’s also curing vision problems and giving patients the clarity of natural vision.
There are actually two kinds of Wavefront procedures: Wavefront guided and Wavefront optimized. The results for both treatments are excellent.
Today, most LASIK procedures are performed using Wavefront technology along with a femtosecond laser for the flap creation. These advancements have made LASIK more effective and more accessible to potential candidates.
LASIK Candidacy and What it Can Treat
Here’s some really good news: Femtosecond LASIK technology broadens the number of people eligible for LASIK. Nowadays, patients with thin corneas, who were previously unable to undergo the procedure, can become candidates thanks to the laser’s ability to create a thinner flap. Femtosecond technology also allows for a more even flap. Essentially, this new technology allows the surgeon to tailor the procedure to the shape of each patient’s eye. As you might expect, this results in excellent outcomes and high patient satisfaction. The current technology also enables eye surgeons to treat patients with higher myopic prescriptions.
LASIK laser eye surgery is used to treat or cure common vision problems caused by nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Although LASIK cannot correct presbyopia (age-related farsightedness), the LASIK lasers can be used for a monovision correction, which treats the dominant eye for distance and leaves the non-dominant eye slightly nearsighted. The nearsighted eye will allow for up-close reading and the other eye will have clear distance vision. Usually, this technique is offered only to patients who have had monovision correction with contact lenses.
The results of LASIK have continued to improve over the past 20 years based on technological advancements and surgeon skill. Intralase, using a femtosecond laser, has also improved the safety and accuracy of LASIK.
Current LASIK Risk and Success Rates
Studies have shown that using Wavefront-guided LASIK to correct myopia, combined with a femtosecond laser flap, significantly helps people in their night driving, and is a major improvement over traditional non-custom LASIK.
Cost of LASIK & Insurance Coverage
LASIK technology went unchanged from 1996 to 2001, and as a result, the price trended downward during that period. As technology advanced, the average price of LASIK gradually rose each year until 2009, when the price plateaued. More advanced technologies, such as Wavefront and All-Laser IntraLASIK, became widely used. As the benefits of advanced technologies became more established, the percentage of higher-priced Wavefront IntraLASIK procedures outpaced the percentage of lower-cost standard LASIK procedures. This shift accounted for a rise in “average” price. However, when making “apples-to-apples” comparisons, the actual cost of Wavefront LASIK and All-laser IntraLASIK procedures have not risen over recent years.
Today, laser eye surgery providers and vision centers offer prices as low as $250 per eye, or as high as $2,000 per eye. The cost depends on the type of vision problem and the needs of the patient.
In the past and still today, insurance companies consider LASIK to be an elective procedure. Sometimes, work conditions have generated partial insurance coverage of LASIK, but that is a rarity. Because insurance typically covers only the cost of eye health exams, which are still recommended annually after LASIK, most policies do not cover the cost of glasses or contacts. However, there are cases where vision insurance may offer partial coverage. It’s always good to check with your provider.
Another thing to keep in mind: Insurance companies may partner with reputable and screened LASIK providers to offer discounts on LASIK to their members. Additionally, some law enforcement agencies and branches of the military may offer LASIK discounts either through their office or through the LASIK provider. They do this because achieving 20/20 vision without the aid of eyeglasses or contacts is largely beneficial to these jobs. Sometimes, it could make a life-or-death difference in the field.
Selecting a LASIK Provider
Advancements in technology. Rapidly improving success rates. Ever-decreasing risks to the patient. Proliferating opportunities to treat a wider range of vision problems. These factors combine to make LASIK an increasingly attractive solution. Our advice? Do your research. Read online reviews of providers. If you are in one of their markets, LasikPlus is a great option. They have performed more than 1.5 million procedures, offer lifetime guarantees, and are well reviewed. Research their doctors in Yelp and Google reviews to find the best one out there.