Risks Associated With Laser Eye Surgery

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As with any surgical procedure, laser vision surgery has some possible risks that must be taken into account.

More than 1 million patients in 52 countries have improved their vision as a result of laser technology. To our knowledge, no cases of blindness have ever been reported from either the PRK or LASIK procedures. While there is still a small risk of somebody going blind from the procedure, this is true for contact lens and glasses users as well.

Each candidate should remember that a specific end result cannot be guaranteed, although it can be closely predicted based on data from thousands of previous cases. Serious complications are very rare. Infection is the largest risk, but its occurrence is extremely infrequent. Even if it develops, infection can usually be cleared effectively with medications. Other possible complications include haze, scarring, induced astigmatism, and too much or too little healing response. Most, but not all, complications are treatable with medications or further surgery.

It is essential that a patient understand as much as possible about the risks associated with the excimer laser procedure.During the healing process, most people can expect to experience at least some of these effects:

  • Initial exaggerated effects of surgery (Since small amounts of the removed tissue do heal back, the laser is programmed to remove enough tissue for the eye to stabilize at the desired correction. The initial effect may seem to be overcorrection.)
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Halo effect from bright lights at night
  • Decreased visual clarity in dim light
  • Slightly dryer eyes

In most cases, these effects decrease and disappear as the eye heals. Occasionally, some may persist.
Risk associated with this surgical procedure include but are not limited to:

  • Corneal scarring/anterior stromal reticular haze: Haze or scar tissue dense enough to affect vision may occur after the procedure.
  • Decrease in best corrected visual acuity: A decrease in the best corrected visual acuity (vision with eyeglasses of contact lenses) may occur.
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses postoperatively: May occur after refractive surgery.
  • Epithelialization of the interface of the corneal flap: May result after the LASIK procedure. Epithelial cells (the outer most layer of the cornea) which normally grow on the surface of the cornea, grow in the space under the flap created by the microkeratome. This condition may require additional surgical treatment.
  • Foreign body sensations: Foreign body sensations or a feeling that something is in the eye may be experienced. Over a period of a few weeks these foreign body sensations usually diminish.
  • Glare: Glare, especially from bright lights at night, may be experienced, particularly in the early months after the procedure. Glare may also result when sutures are in place.
  • Halo: Halos, or hazy rings surrounding bright lights may be experienced, particularly at night after the procedure.
  • Improper correction: It is possible that the procedure could result in undercorrection where there may be some degree of nearsightedness and it may be necessary for you to continue to wear corrective lenses. Improper correction may also result in overcorrection resulting in the eye becoming farsighted which may or may not require you to wear corrective lenses. It is possible that improper correction may increase dependence on reading glasses or require the use of reading glasses at an earlier age.
  • Induced regular/irregular astigmatism: A change in the astigmatism of your eye which may then distort vision and may or may not require you to continue to wear corrective lenses.
  • Tearing/perforation (opening or tear) of the corneal flap: May occur during or after the LASIK procedure, potentially resulting in the need for a corneal transplant.
  • Anisometropia: A significant difference in the refraction of the two eyes which may Cause headaches and/or a difficulty in focusing.
  • Diffuse Nebulae: A scattered cloudiness of the cornea.
  • Intracocular Infection: An eye infection may result as with any type of ocular (eye) surgery.
  • Microbial Keratitis: Inflammation of the cornea due to infection.
  • Pain: Ocular pain may occur immediately or in the long term postoperative period.

This is not an all inclusive list of side effects or complications. Please ask the doctor or call our office for a complete listing.

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