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Your Eye Surgery Questions Answered

Any medical procedure is bound to generate questions. Here are answers to some common ones regarding laser vision correction.

As you read this article, please keep in mind: It is intended to guide you as you make decisions on what’s best for you. Naturally, it is not a substitute for a consultation with a qualified LASIK doctor.

What Is the Latest LASIK Technology?

Modern LASIK uses a laser, but not like the ones you’ve seen in science fiction movies. The laser used in vision correction procedures emits pulses that are femtoseconds long, which is one quadrillionth of a second. That means it doesn’t heat or damage the eye tissue and is extremely precise. This technology was developed in the 1990s and was approved to make the corneal flaps needed for LASIK in 2002. 

What Determines the Price of LASIK?

There are many factors that go into the cost of a LASIK procedure, including supplies, licensing fees for the software used to run the laser equipment, salaries for the doctor and office staff and facility and other costs. The laser equipment that the doctor uses costs thousands of dollars, and a licensing fee is charged each time a procedure is performed.

While some laser vision correction centers advertise low prices on LASIK, these generally aren’t customized Wavefront-guided procedures using a laser to make the corneal flap. The traditional LASIK performed by low-cost providers uses a microkeratome blade to make the corneal flap. Neil Wills, M.D., a LASIK surgeon based in Virginia, chooses all-laser LASIK for his patients.

“Most of us now perform blade-free LASIK,” said Dr.Wills. “The entire procedure is laser and computer driven. There’s no blade touching the eye. That’s meant huge improvements in safety, precision and predictability.”

What Is “Custom” LASIK?

Custom LASIK refers to computer optimized LASIK procedures, which provide an individualized treatment for patients mapped to their specific cornea — no two treatments are alike.

Dr. Wills recommends custom LASIK for most of his patients. When LASIK first was introduced, the treatment was done to flatten part of the cornea (in the case of myopic or near-sighted patients). Unfortunately, that can lead to an increased risk of glare or halos at night, according to Dr. Wills.

“With computer optimized technology, we can actually soften that transition to recreate the round shape of the cornea. It can decrease the chance of getting glares and halos. It’s better for patients and better for maintaining the stability of the procedure afterwards.”

Some doctors charge different fees for different types of treatment, but Dr. Wills does not. “We can offer the better technology, but the price is the same. My commitment to patients is giving them the best vision possible in the safest way possible.”

What Should I Look for in a LASIK Doctor?

Walk into your eye doctor’s office with a list of questions to make sure you get the information you need to make an informed decision. Here are some possible questions to ask:

  • Ask for details about his experience. You should ask your provider how many procedures he has performed, how many years he has practiced and whether the doctor tracks the outcomes of his patients. If the surgeon benchmarks his work, it means the doctor is committed to quality and continuous improvement, according to the Eye Surgery Education Council.
  • Ask about training, education, associations, awards and certifications. These are all good indicators of the level of experience he or she has.
  • Ask about the equipment that will be used for the surgery. LASIK technology has improved over the years — make sure your doctor is using the best equipment for your needs.
  • Ask the doctor how she manages her practice. Will the doctor who performs your surgery be available for postoperative care? How many prospective LASIK patients are turned away each year? LASIK isn’t for everyone, and responsible doctors often decline the procedure for up to a quarter of their prospective patients.

What About Touch-Ups or Enhancements?

In some cases, particularly patients with very extreme nearsightedness, vision will regress at some point after the LASIK procedure. If this happens, the doctor will recommend a touch-up or enhancement procedure. The doctor will make this decision based on the patient’s current visual acuity, corneal thickness, shape and topography of the eye and the expected outcome from the follow-up procedure.

The questions above are a good starting point as you make your decision regarding LASIK. Any medical decision should be carefully considered — make an informed choice based on consulting a LASIK provider.