LASIK

Lasik, or laser in situ keratomileusis, is a type of refractive surgery used to treat patients who are diagnosed with near-sightedness, far-sightedness and astigmatism.

The purpose of the surgery is to allow the patient to potentially decrease or eliminate the dependency on corrective glasses and contact lenses.

Procedure

There are several necessary preparations in the preoperative period. The operation itself involves creating a thin flap on the eye, folding it to enable remodeling of the tissue beneath with a laser. The flap is repositioned and the eye is left to heal in the postoperative period.

Preoperative

Patients wearing soft contact lenses are usually instructed to stop wearing them 5 to 21 days before surgery. Before the surgery, the patient's corneas are examined with a pachymeter to determine their thickness, and with a topographer to measure their surface contour. Using low-power lasers, a topographer creates a topographic map of the cornea. This process also detects astigmatism and other irregularities in the shape of the cornea. Using this information, the surgeon calculates the amount and the locations of corneal tissue to be removed during the operation. The patient typically is prescribed and self-administers an antibiotic beforehand to minimize the risk of infection after the procedure.

Operation

The operation is performed with the patient awake and mobile; however, the patient is given anesthetic eye drops.

LASIK is performed in three steps. The first step is to create a flap of corneal tissue. The second step is remodeling of the cornea underneath the flap with the laser. Finally, the flap is repositioned.

Flap creation

A corneal suction ring is applied to the eye, holding the eye in place. This step in the procedure can sometimes cause small blood vessels to burst, resulting in bleeding or subconjunctival hemorrhage into the white (sclera) of the eye, a harmless side effect that resolves within several weeks. Increased suction typically causes a transient dimming of vision in the treated eye. Once the eye is immobilized, the flap is created. This process is achieved with a mechanical microkeratome using a metal blade, or a femtosecond laser microkeratome that creates a series of tiny closely arranged bubbles within the cornea. A hinge is left at one end of this flap. The flap is folded back, revealing the stroma, the middle section of the cornea. The process of lifting and folding back the flap can sometimes be uncomfortable.

Laser remodeling

The second step of the procedure is to use an excimer laser (193 nm) to remodel the corneal stroma. The laser vaporizes tissue in a finely controlled manner without damaging the adjacent stroma. No burning with heat or actual cutting is required to ablate the tissue. The layers of tissue removed are tens of micrometres thick. Performing the laser ablation in the deeper corneal stroma typically provides for more rapid visual recovery and less pain than the earlier technique, photorefractive keratectomy (PRK).

During the second step, the patient's vision will become very blurry once the flap is lifted. They will be able to see only white light and blinking red light, which can lead to mild disorientation.

Our excimer laser use an eye tracking system that follows the patient's eye position up to 4,000 times per second, redirecting laser pulses for precise placement within the treatment zone. Typical pulses are around 1 millijoule (mJ) of pulse energy in 10 to 20 nanoseconds.

Repositioning of flap

After the laser has reshaped the stromal layer, the LASIK flap is carefully repositioned over the treatment area by the surgeon and checked for the presence of air bubbles, debris, and proper fit on the eye. The flap remains in position by natural adhesion until healing is completed.

Postoperative care

Patients are usually given a course of antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops. These are continued in the weeks following surgery. Patients are usually told to sleep much more and are also given a darkened pair of shields to protect their eyes from bright lights and protective goggles to prevent rubbing of the eyes when asleep and to reduce dry eyes. They also are required to moisturize the eyes with preservative-free tears and follow directions for prescription drops. Patients should be adequately informed by their surgeons of the importance of proper post-operative care to minimize the risk of complications.