Reaching the decision to have refractive surgery, surgery intended to correct problems with visual acuity, is the easy part. If you have dealt with the inconvenience of glasses or contact lenses you understand the advantages of the better vision achieved by patients who have had refractive surgeries such as LASIK. The more difficult decision comes in deciding which surgeon and which refractive procedure best suit your needs.
Laser Assisted in Situ Keratomileusis, commonly referred to as LASIK, is the most advanced of the refractive surgeries. It is designed to correct refractive errors in the eye and produce improved vision without the aid of glasses or contact lenses. This micro-surgical procedure requires specialized instruments in the hands of an experienced physician.
After preoperative testing and examination, the surgeon uses a microkeratome to create a flap of the outer portion of the cornea of the eye. The cornea is the clear tissue over the front of the eye. This flap remains connected to the rest of the cornea at one point but is lifted free of the area directly above the center of the cornea.
The surgeon then uses a laser to vaporize a portion of the cornea tissue over the center of the eye. The surgeon controls the laser with the assistance of a computer that monitors the position of the eye and targets the proper tissue.
The flap created in the first step is then replaced in position over the area where tissue was removed by the laser. The tissue removed by the laser creates a new shape to the cornea that should improve the vision of the patient.
Post-operative care commonly includes antibiotic drops, possibly pain treatment, lubricating drops to keep the eye moist and anti-inflammatory drops to reduce swelling. The patient may notice immediate improvement in vision although that is not always the case.
The patient should discuss with the surgeon any post-operative restrictions on activities and if eye protection is suggested. Always follow the surgeon’s instructions concerning any precautions and the application of any medicines. In some cases, the post-operative care is critical to the successful outcome of the surgery.
Everything about the LASIK surgical procedure requires precision. The flap, for example, must cut through the cornea horizontally lifting the outer portion of the tissue but leaving the rest in place. The thickness of the cornea is about a half millimeter. This is comparable to the thickness of plastic wrap.
Experience is one of the most important considerations when considering a LASIK surgeon. Talk with doctor and his staff about the number of LASIK procedures performed. An experience surgeon will also have current equipment for preoperative testing as well as a knowledgeable staff that can assist in every phase of the patient treatment.
The staff should be open and approachable. If a question arises when the surgeon is not available are medical staff members able to address the concern.? Do they seem knowledgeable about the procedure and eye health in general? The surgeon and his entire staff should make the patient feel at ease about the LASIK procedure.
The LASIK surgeon should also take time to answer any and all questions about the procedure. No question is too small or unimportant to ask as part of the patient education process. Many refractive surgical practices use prepared video presentations as part of the education. Watch these closely and take notes, if necessary. Ask the surgeon or his staff for any additional information you need to understand the procedure.
Also talk to the surgeon concerning the expected outcomes of the procedure. Understand how the surgeon expects your eyesight to improve. This may depend on other factors including any underlying eye health issues.
There are also other considerations when considering a LASIK surgeon.
Is the clinic conveniently located and does the facility maintain hours that work with your schedule? The LASIK surgery process may involve several visits to the clinic both before and after the surgery. Traveling long distances can cause inconvenience and add cost to the process.
Do you understand the costs associated with the surgery? Most insurance policies consider LASIK and other refractive surgeries elective and do not provide coverage. Understanding the costs and what services are included can reduce apprehension concerning the procedure.
Patients should consider all these factors when selecting a LASIK surgeon. The best value in any medical procedure involves working with a professional with the skills and equipment necessary to provide the most favorable outcome. For patients considering LASIK this means working with an experienced surgeon specializing in this form of refractive surgery.