LASIK is an amazing procedure that has helped millions see the world better, free from glasses and contacts. Since its introduction in the United States in the mid-1990s, there are now thousands of LASIK centers in the US.
A prospective patient looking to make the best decision about where to have this life-changing surgery will likely find a wide range of surgery providers available in the area. The decision of where to have LASIK is important – and potentially life-changing – and there is often only one chance to “get it right.”
Here are four questions worth asking any LASIK provider before trusting them with your sight.
1. What laser or lasers do you use?
Is it an older laser, performing a conventional treatment? Is it a wavefront guided laser like the VISX Star S4, performing a wavefront-guided treatment? Or is it one of the newest generation of wavefront-optimized lasers, such as the Wavelight Allegretto Eye-Q or Zeiss MEL-80, designed to maintain the natural shape of the cornea while correcting vision?
All lasers are not created equal, and laser vision correction is a field where enormous strides have been made in technology. Our practice, for example, has acquired five different excimer lasers in their 13 years in Utah, each representing an advance in safety and effectiveness over previous models. These advances are significant: wavefront-optimized lasers like the Wavelight Allegretto are the first ones to help eliminate complications such as nighttime halo and glare, which were among the more common complaints with earlier lasers.
2. How many LASIK procedures have you performed?
Even the most advanced laser in the world is only as effective as the surgeon using it, so technology and experience go hand in hand in ensuring a great surgery. An experienced surgeon develops smooth and efficient surgical technique that leads to better patient results. In the unlikely event of any complication, an experienced doctor is more likely to have seen similar issues in the past, and know how to correct them.
A surgeon that has performed tens of thousands of procedures using the newest technology is going to be familiar with its strengths and limitations, helping to know who is a great candidate for laser vision correction and perhaps more importantly, who is not.
Related article: LASIK success rates high, but be aware of risks
3. Is all of your LASIK blade-free?
The 2003 introduction of the Intralase femtosecond laser revolutionized LASIK by replacing the microkeratome, a hand-held blade formerly used in flap creation, with a computer-guided laser. A decade later, virtually all reputable surgeons agree that blade-free LASIK is safer and gives better results, but there are still some providers offering bladed procedures in an effort to cut costs.
Does your surgeon insist on using only the newer, safer blade-free technology, or does he or she offer blade-free LASIK only as an upcharge?
4. Am I a candidate?
Candidacy for LASIK is determined by a number of factors including the type and degree of refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, or presbyopia), thickness and shape of the corneal tissue, and presence or absence of a number of ophthalmic and general health conditions.
Many of the tests and measurements necessary to determine candidacy are beyond the scope of a routine eye exam, and all of them require interpretation by a doctor specialized in LASIK. Because of this, LASIK providers generally provide the initial testing and consultation free of charge.
When you are at a LASIK screening, ask yourself:
- Am I receiving a thorough examination?
- Is the doctor taking the time to explain the test results to me, along with what they mean?
- Are my surgical options being explained to me, along with their risks and benefits?
- Are my questions being answered?
- Do they seem more interested in convincing me to have surgery, or helping me to make educated decisions about my own vision correction?
While no surgery is completely risk free, even one as established and proven as LASIK, patients can help assure themselves a great result by knowing the right questions to ask in choosing a laser surgery provider.
About this Angie’s List Expert: Ben Duffy is director of patient services at Hoopes Vision, and has over a decade of experience in the eye care field. Based in Draper, Utah, and providing ophthalmology eye care services including LASIK eye surgery in Salt Lake City, Hoopes Vision earned the 2012 Angie’s List Super Service Award. Follow this #ALExperts contributor on Twitter @HoopesVision.
As of December 6, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.