The LASIK surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist who uses a laser or microkeratome to reshape the eye's cornea in order to improve visual acuity. For most people, LASIK provides a long-lasting alternative to eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Flaporhexis as an alternative method to lift a femtosecond laser flap
LASIK is most similar to another surgical corrective procedure, photorefractive keratectomy (PRK), and LASEK. All represent advances over radial keratotomy in the surgical treatment of refractive errors of vision. For patients with moderate to high myopia or thin corneas which cannot be treated with LASIK and PRK, the phakic intraocular lens is an alternative. As of 2018, roughly 8 million Americans have had LASIK and, as of 2016, more than 40 million procedures have been performed since 1991. However, the procedure seems to be a declining option for many in the United States, dropping more than 50 percent, from about 1.5 million surgeries in 2007 to 604,000 in 2015, according to the eye-care data source Market Scope. A study in the journal, Cornea, determined the frequency with which LASIK was searched on Google from 2007 to 2011. Within this time frame, LASIK searches declined by 40% in the United States. Countries such as the U.K. and India also showed a decline, 22% and 24% respectively. Canada, however, showed an increase in LASIK searches by 8%. By 2015 in the US, LASIK declined by 50%. This decrease in interest can be attributed to a few things: the emergence of refractive cataract surgery, the economic recession in 2008, and unfavorable media coverage from the FDA’s 2008 press release on LASIK.
In 2006, the British National Health Service's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) considered evidence of the effectiveness and the potential risks of the laser surgery stating "current evidence suggests that photorefractive (laser) surgery for the correction of refractive errors is safe and effective for use in appropriately selected patients. Clinicians undertaking photorefractive (laser) surgery for the correction of refractive errors should ensure that patients understand the benefits and potential risks of the procedure. Risks include failure to achieve the expected improvement in unaided vision, development of new visual disturbances, corneal infection and flap complications. These risks should be weighed against those of wearing spectacles or contact lenses." The FDA reports "The safety and effectiveness of refractive procedures has not been determined in patients with some diseases."
Surveys of LASIK surgery find rates of patient satisfaction between 92 and 98 percent. In March 2008, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery published a patient satisfaction meta-analysis of over 3,000 peer-reviewed articles from international clinical journals. Data from a systematic literature review conducted from 1988 to 2008, consisting of 309 peer-reviewed articles about “properly conducted, well-designed, randomized clinical trials" found a 95.4 percent patient satisfaction rate among LASIK patients.
A 2017 JAMA study claims that overall, preoperative symptoms decreased significantly, and visual acuity excelled. A meta-analysis discovered that 97% of patients achieved uncorrected visual acuity (UCVA) of 20/40, while 62% achieved 20/20. The increase in visual acuity allows individuals to enter occupations that were previously not an option due to their vision.
Some people with poor outcomes from LASIK surgical procedures report a significantly reduced quality of life because of vision problems or physical pain associated with the surgery. A small percentage of patients may need to have another surgery because their condition is over- or under-corrected. Some patients need to wear contact lenses or glasses even after treatment.
The most common reason for dissatisfaction in LASIK patients is chronic severe dry eye. Independent research indicates 95% of patients experience dry eye in the initial post-operative period. This number has been reported to up to 60% after one month. Symptoms begin to improve in the vast majority of patients in the 6 to 12 months following the surgery. However, 30% of post-LASIK referrals to tertiary ophthalmology care centers have been shown to be due to chronic dry eye.
Morris Waxler, a former FDA official who was involved in the approval of LASIK, has subsequently criticized its widespread use. In 2010, Waxler made media appearances and claimed that the procedure had a failure rate greater than 50%. The FDA responded that Waxler's information was "filled with false statements, incorrect citations" and "mischaracterization of results".
A 2016 JAMA study indicates that the prevalence of complications from LASIK are higher than indicated, with the study indicating many patients wind up with glare, halos or other visual symptoms. Forty-three percent of participants in a JAMA study (published in 2017) reported new visual symptoms they had not experienced before.
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