LASIK eye surgery has a relatively short history. There is not yet a large body of conclusive evidence on the chances of long-term complications from the LASIK procedure. The American Academy of Ophthalmology now offers the following advisory regarding the procedure:
- Lasik may not give you perfect vision. Seven of 10 patients achieve 20/20 vision, but 20/20 doesn't always mean perfect vision.
- If you have Lasik to correct your distance vision, you'll still need reading glasses around age 45.
- The procedure is too new to know if there are any long-term ill effects beyond five years of surgery.
- Lasik can't be reversed.
- Most insurance doesn't cover the surgery.
Is the Ophthalmology profession and the LASIK industry starting to take steps to limit their future liablity and put a warning label of sorts on the procedure? The statement that "20/20 doesn't always mean perfect vision" is probably news to most people. Are they at all worried about future class action lawsuits?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology to their credit as a medical institution release reports on problems that crop up from LASIK surgery. One recent report is entitled: Stromal opacities exacerbated after LASIK. It is not too encouraging:
A case presented by Christopher S. Banning, MD, at the July 2005 meeting of the Georgia Society of Ophthalmology reported on the exacerbation of stromal opacities after LASIK. The patient, a 25 year-old Caucasian female, complained of decreased vision in both eyes 14 months after LASIK. Preoperative records indicated only sparse, faint stromal opacities present bilaterally. Postoperatively, the patient developed multiple stromal opacities bilaterally, which appeared granular in nature and reduced her visual acuity to 20/50 OD and 20/70 OS. Genetic testing revealed that the patient actually had Avellino corneal dystrophy. Although numerous cases of Avellino dystrophy after LASIK have been reported from Korea, this is the first case reported in North America.
Dr. Banning and R. Doyle Stulting, MD, PhD, discussed the importance of preoperative evaluation for any suspected corneal stromal abnormalities, including genetic testing when indicated, and recommended avoiding LASIK in any patients with evidence or strong suspicion of corneal stromal dystrophies. They also recommend avoiding enhancements if possible in these individuals because additional exacerbation may occur and further compromise vision.
LASIK procedures are currently being advertised for $290 in Niagara Falls, Canada. Some dentists charge more than that to fill a cavity. The question remains - is it as safe as getting a cavity filled?
Lasik- From $290 Per Eye
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Learning About LASIK [fda.gov]
LASIK — IS IT FOR YOU? (pdf)[aao.org]
LASIK Risks (pdf)[aao.org]
Dangers of LASIK eye surgery [TJN]