Is laser vision correction surgery safe?
Mr Tariq Ayoub - 25 Jan 2022
Are you considering having laser vision correction? You might be wondering if it is a safe surgery.
Read on to learn the risks and side effects of laser vision correction.
Is laser vision correction surgery safe?
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) considers modern laser eye surgery a ‘safe and effective treatment’, a statement supported by extensive evidence from the scientific community.
Complications from laser eye surgery are rare. All surgery carries some risk, but most complications that arise from this procedure can be easily fixed.
Laser eye surgery was first used in 1991, and its procedures have been constantly developed and refined ever since. It’s one of the safest of all surgeries, with over 30 years of clinical data tracking its long-term outcomes. Over 6000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on LASIK alone highlight its success.
What are the risks of laser eye surgery?
In all forms of eye surgery, problems can occur during the operation or afterwards in the
healing period. On rare occasions, this can result in a permanent loss of vision.
However, we can correct most complications with medication or additional surgery. If you do develop a problem, we will explain what it is and why further treatment is needed.
Up to 1 in 10 patients require some form of additional procedure to get the best result from laser eye surgery. Additional operations will follow the same process as your original surgery and have a similar recovery period.
Do different types of laser eye surgery have different levels of risk?
No, they are all very similar. A 2017 meta-study showed that even though LASEK, LASIK and Trans-PRK use different methods, all types of laser corneal refractive surgeries are similar in effectiveness, safety, predictability, post-operative haze and comfort.
Can I lose my vision from laser eye surgery?
Permanent loss of vision after laser eye surgery is extremely rare. In the worst-case scenario, we can use a corneal transplant to replace a damaged block of tissue. Problems that can lead to a transplant include: scarring after infection or an abnormal healing response.
However, less than 1 in 5000 patients require a corneal transplant after laser surgery. The transplant procedure is usually successful in restoring vision – though you may need glasses or contact lenses after.
Understanding corneal ectasia
Corneal ectasia can occur when a surgeon removes too much corneal tissue during laser eye surgery. This leaves the cornea too thin and causes the tissue to weaken. Though this occurs in just 0.04% to 0.6% of surgeries.
We tend to associate this with the LASIK procedure, where the stromal flap separates from the cornea. This is not a concern for most patients, but there is a small minority predisposed to this condition.
What are the side effects of laser eye surgery?
Some patients can experience side effects following laser eye surgery. Most can be minimised with good aftercare.
LASIK eye surgery used to involve a microkeratome blade to manually create the flap, from which complications occasionally occurred. However, new technology, such as the IntraLASE femtosecond laser, means this is increasingly rare. Microkeratome blades are no longer considered best practice.
Like all surgical procedures, laser eye surgery comes with a low risk of infection. You can further reduce this risk by following all post-operative instructions. These include avoiding: makeup, dust, smoke, running water (like showers), and rubbing eyes.
Halos and Glare
All patients experience halos – bright circles around lighting – following surgery. As fluid within the cornea causes light to scatter. The halos should disappear within 3 months when the fluid clears. Some patients may continue to experience halos which we can treat.
Dry-eye is usually temporary. It can become a problem if surgeons do not evaluate patients properly before surgery. It comes from post-surgery raw nerve endings on the surface of the cornea, which needs to regenerate. This usually takes around 3 months, after which dry-eye should disappear.
Moving forward with laser eye surgery
Laser eye surgery can be life-changing for patients. As with all surgical procedures, it comes with risk. But, we can minimise or eliminate it with the right care.
If you are considering laser eye surgery, the best way to minimise risk is to seek out a reliable surgeon with a proven track record. Check that your chosen practitioner is using the most up-to-date technology, has a thorough aftercare service, and has well-qualified staff.
The Oculase team are outstanding professionals in their field. We use the latest clinical practices and technology to deliver the safest outcomes for our patients. Learn more about our team here.