How Safe is Laser Eye Surgery?
Laser eye surgery is generally very safe, regardless of the exact method and technique that is used. However, as with all surgeries, there are some risks and complications that should be taken into account before making the decision to undergo a procedure. The best way to ensure a successful operation is to research your chosen clinic and surgeon well beforehand, opting for highly experienced ophthalmologists and reputable clinics.
LASIK surgery success rates
Cornwall’s Duchy Hospital reports that approximately 95% of LASIK patients receive at least 6/12 vision following the procedure, which is usually adequate to undertake everyday activities without the need for additional visual aids such as glasses or contact lenses. It has also been reported in the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery that roughly 96% of LASIK patients are satisfied with the results of the surgery.
Despite high success rates, each individual is different, and will react differently to the surgery. Additionally, LASIK uses high tech devices that could contribute to damage in or around the eye. The most common complications of LASIK are problems with the healing of the corneal flap, however, the risks can usually be successfully managed by adequate postoperative care.
The risk of complications arising from LASIK surgery are believed to be greater in patients aged over 30, and those with thick corneas, meaning the laser needs to penetrate deeper into the eye to be effective.
IntraLASIK surgery success rates
Due to the use of a laser to create the corneal flap, and the increased accuracy that a laser can provide over the traditional LASIK method of bladed equipment, intraLASIK is thought to have a slightly higher success rate than conventional LASIK, with around 98% of patients seeing significant improvements in their vision following the procedure.
The use of intraLASIK technology provides few additional risks to patients when compared to regular LASIK procedures. In fact, complications are thought to be greatly reduced. Complications arising from irregular cutting or incomplete cutting are reduced, and issues with corneal healing are rare as the flap can be made much thinner using the laser, allowing it to heal quicker and easier, reducing the risk of postoperative infection. However, the Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery reports that around half of all intraLASIK patients will experience the formation of gas bubbles on the cornea, which can limit the effectiveness of the operation.
It is believed that patients with very thick corneas, and those who have just a small corneal flap made, are at greater risk of bubble formations. Further risk factors are similar to those for LASIK, including age.
LASEK surgery success rates
LASEK is a very effective procedure for treating a variety of eye conditions, particularly long and short sightedness. Ultralase reports that 96% of patients receive adequate vision following a LASEK procedure, with just 4 % requiring minor adjustments during a second surgery.
The method used during LASEK means that complications resulting from corneal flaps are prevented. Complications arising from LASEK surgery are very rare, and typically very minor when they do occur. Dry eyes are one of the most common complaints, which can easily be managed with eye drops, and some patients may notice a small amount of clouding in dimly lit conditions, which usually corrects itself within 12 months of the operation.
There are really no significant risk factors that can determine a patient’s likelihood of suffering complications from LASEK surgery. While some studies have suggested those with existing dry eyes are more likely to have minor complications of this nature, others have found that it’s really just the luck of the draw. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle before and after surgery may limit risks.
PRK surgery success rates
Success rates of PRK vary significantly depending on the extent of the visual impairment. For example, an article in the German published Wiener Medizinische Wochenschrift concluded that patients suffering with low to moderate myopia (nearsightedness) classified as those with up to -6 dpt, could expect a success rate of around 93 %. However, those suffering with more advanced nearsightedness could expect success rates of just 30%.
Complications from PRK are rare, and are minor when they do occur. The Journal of Cataract and Refractive Surgery reports that around 4% of patients suffer with over-correction, and about 8% with under-correction. Additionally, around 3% of PRK patients are thought to suffer with hazy vision afterwards, and around 3% with visual glare. Patients who use steroid drops post-operatively to manage infection are also at risk of increased pressure in the eye.
The main risk factor for complications arising from PRK surgery is the extent of the visual impairment. While complications in patients with -6 dpt are rare, they are more common in those with greater visual problems. For patients with severe impairments, it is generally recommended that LASIK be performed instead of PRK.
Wavefront Guided LASIK
Wavefront guided LASIK is considered to be one of the most effective methods of laser eye surgery, with Optimax reporting that 99% of their Wavefront guided LASIK patients receive adequate driving eyesight following the procedure without the need for glasses or contact lenses.
The Journal of Refractive Surgery confirms that complications from Wavefront guided LASIK are very rare, occurring in an estimated 0.64% of patients. The most common complication is deemed to be dry eye which is a minor complication and is easily treatable. Mild, temporary inflammation is also a possibility.
Some researchers have suggested that patients with a large pupil size are more at risk of postoperative complications of Wavefront guided LASIK, but other studies, such as Effect of Preoperative Pupil Size on Quality of Vision after Wavefront Guided LASIK, published in Ophthalmology, have refuted these claims, claiming that pupil size is really no indicator of surgical success.
ICL surgery success rates
The US Food and Drug Administration report that, in general, around 95% of ICL patients receive 20/40 vision following implantation which is adequate for driving without glasses, and around half of all patients experience excellent 20/20 vision, making it one of the most successful treatments available.
As ICL is not hugely different from the use of temporary contact lenses, complications are rare. However, one complication that has been known to occur is pigment dispersion, which tends to happen in between 15% and 28% of cases, depending on the brand of permanent contact lenses uses. Pigment dispersion can lead to glaucoma.
Caucasian men aged between 20 and 40 suffering with nearsightedness are believed to be most at risk of pigment dispersion. Therefore, ICL is particularly suited to older patients, especially those whose age makes them unsuitable for laser eye surgery.
Moorfields safety record
As with all surgeries, surgical eye treatments do carry risks. However, Moorfields’ Annual Review shows a remarkably high success rate, with very few patients suffering either mild or severe complications.
For your peace of mind, here are the complication rates for refractive lens surgery performed at Moorfields Private:
- Tissue healing complication needing minor laser correction: 1 in 10 patients
- Suboptimal visual improvement requiring further surgery: 1 in 100 patients
- Permanent eye damage: Fewer than 1 in 2,000 patients