There is always a concern about the long term effects of a newer procedure. Without long-term studies or observation, it is hard to promise the safety and health outcomes of these innovated technologies. Fortunately, for the ophthalmology world, new studies have recently proven long-term safety of LASIK eye surgery. Although there is a chance for negative side effects, LASIK has shown that the overall long-term outcomes of the procedure are beneficial.
In a recent article by Fox News, Dr. Marc Werner, an ophthalmologist at the Stahl Eye Center in New York City expressed to Fox that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration 9FDA) would remove the LASIK procedure if there were long-term issues associated with the surgery; “we still have lots of people we started on 18 to 19 years ago who are perfect. It’s still a very good procedure with long-term results.”
LASIK surgery now uses a femtosecond laser to reshape the cornea of the eye to improve optical vision. The procedure is meant to correct all fields of vision issues such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Prior to the use of the femtosecond laser, a surgical blade was utilized to create a corneal flap so that the stroma (in the middle of the cornea) could be reshaped. Once completed, the flap was placed back into position where resulting vision was improved. The femtosecond laser has changed the LASIK procedure where now the corneal flap is created using the laser instead of a blade. This step has improved the overall safety of the procedure; if the surgery is disrupted, there is a less likely chance of tissue damage compared to the blade.
Fox News stated, “In a 2008 retrospective study of LASIK procedures, Spanish researchers followed up with 70 patients for 10 years and found that, overall, participants had healthy corneas and that their vision remained accurate.” Not only are these results comforting for LASIK patients, but also shows that the improvements in LASIK technology have surpassed in-depth safety concerns.
LASIK improvements have also expanded into the preoperative testing process where screening exams have become more thorough. “The screening process has gotten better in the sense that it could pick up things it couldn’t pick up…10…five years ago,” stated Dr. Michael Ehrenhaus, director of New York Cornea Consultants at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. The preoperative exams search for potential post-surgical risks of the LASIK surgery. Fox explained that according to the FDA, those patients who participate in contact sports, have an underlying disease which may affect wound healing, and those who have experienced sudden vision changes within one year could potentially be at an increased risk for complications after LASIK surgery. The fact that these post-operative screening processes have become more thorough is a benefit to patients looking to receive LASIK. Surgeons are taking extra steps in providing proper safety measures for their patients in order to avoid complications.
Because LASIK has proven itself to be a safe and effective procedure, there are fewer studies being performed to monitor and observe the long-term effects. As technology improves in the field of LASIK, safety continues to remain a priority and improves as well.
With safety, there also comes concern with the long-lasting effectiveness of LASIK. In the studies mentioned, most patients stated that their vision had remained accurate throughout the years. However, with age, there comes natural aging processes. This may require a LASIK patient to need reading glasses or a touch-up procedure to improve vision.
Overall, LASIK has proven to be one of the safest and most effective procedures for vision corrective surgery. Most patients remain to have accurate vision 10-15 years post-surgery and are happy with the results.