How advancements in LASIK technology have improved upon patients’ visual outcomes, and the safety of the procedure.
LASIK eye surgery has been performed very successfully in the U.S. since the mid to late 1990s. However, there were some shortcomings and limitations to those early LASIK procedures. Today’s technology is considerably different than in the year 2000, especially with regards to accuracy and safety.
Wavefront Guided Custom LASIK Procedures
LASIK surgery is accomplished by utilizing an excimer laser to remove tissue from the cornea, resulting in a new desired shape. In the early days of LASIK surgery, we manually entered the patient’s refraction (or glasses prescription), which the laser then applied across the cornea. Essentially this meant the laser was given just one single data point per eye (like our glasses or contact lenses).
With the LASIK advancements of today, the procedure is performed using custom, or wavefront guided technology. We measure precisely how light travels through the eye (the wavefront) with a device called an aberrometer. This provides the laser with a “fingerprint” of the detailed optics of each individual eye. The latest version of our software, the iDesign, provides the laser with over 1200 data points per eye.
We are using the same excimer laser as before; however, custom LASIK technology allows us to program the laser more specifically for each eye/treatment, yielding better visual results.
Intralase or Blade-less LASIK
LASIK surgery involves the creation of a thin flap of tissue (about 1/10 of a millimeter), which is temporarily lifted to allow the laser to reshape the cornea. Historically, this was done with a microkeratome, a small mechanical blade, which had certain risks. The microkeratome could introduce variability, or irregularity, in the process of creating such a delicate flap.
Today, we create the flap with another laser instrument, the femtosecond IntraLase device. This produces a far more precise, uniform, and customizable (size and position) flap versus the previous microkeratome.
The IntraLase flap is similar to an interlocking puzzle piece – it repositions itself more securely and predictably. And since there are no moving parts, it is inherently a safer method to create the flap.
Other LASIK Technology Advancements
Tracking System/Iris Registration
The custom LASIK software identifies landmarks on the eye (iris registration), which serves as a tracking system at the time of the actual LASIK procedure. Before the surgeon initiates the laser treatment, the laser is “locked in.” This ensures accuracy and compensates for any eye movements during the procedure.
Treatment Zone Size/Blending of Treatment Zone
Prior LASIK procedures treated a smaller central area of the cornea and could produce a distinct transition at the edge of the treatment zone. We now treat a larger zone and blend/smooth the edges of the treatment zone, which has greatly reduced the incidence of “glare and halo” or “double image” at night, or in those individuals with larger pupil size.
A prospective LASIK candidate is screened and tested using several state-of-the-art instruments and imaging devices, producing critical details of the cornea structure. Certain key findings can determine whether or not a person is truly a good LASIK candidate.
These technologies simply were not available in the early days of LASIK, which translates to better patient selection, and a safer overall procedure today.
Frequently Asked Questions About LASIK
How do I decide if LASIK is right for me?
The first step is to schedule a consultation with one of our surgeons. They will conduct a thorough eye examination and review your health history. If you are determined to be a good candidate for LASIK, we will then schedule you for additional testing.
Does insurance cover LASIK surgery?
While most insurance companies do not cover the cost of LASIK surgery, it’s important to check with your insurance providor about the specifics of your policy. Berkeley Eye Center also has a number of financing options available to make LASIK more affordable.
What is the ideal age to get LASIK?
There is no one “ideal” age for LASIK surgery. The best age for LASIK depends on several individual factors, including your overall health, the severity of your vision problems, and the thickness and shape of your corneas.
Can you blink during LASIK?
Patients often have many concerns before having LASIK surgery. One common concern is, “What will happen if I accidentally blink during the surgery?” Fortunately, this isn’t a problem that patients need to worry about.
Before the surgery begins, numbing drops will be applied to suppress your urge to blink. Then, your LASIK surgeon will use a small device to keep your eyelids open during the surgery.