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Common laser eye surgeries such as LASIK and PRK are no longer for a brave few. A million-plus Americans choose to have laser eye surgery each year to correct farsightedness, nearsightedness, presbyopia or astigmatism. But what exactly happens during the surgery?
All laser eye surgeries are performed while the patient is awake and reclining. At the start of the procedure the surgeon applies anesthetic drops to numb the eyes and places a lid speculum over each eye to keep them open during the surgery.
Once the eyes are prepared, the surgeon uses a microkeratome (a precision instrument with an oscillation blade) or laser to create a flap in the surface of the cornea. The flap is lifted and folded back so the surgeon can direct the laser into the cornea, sculpting the tissue and removing cells according to the patient’s unique prescription. (During this part of the procedure, it's normal to smell an odor and hear a clicking noise.) The flap is then placed back into position to act like a "bandage" that allows for accelerated healing. The whole procedure takes about thirty minutes or less.
After the laser eye surgery is complete, vision is generally quite blurry and patients may feel a slight irritation similar to the feeling of an eyelash in the eye. Prescription eye drops that prevent inflammation and infection are usually provided to help with this. Clear vision generally returns the night of the surgery or the next day. Laser eye surgery patients should plan to have someone drive them home from their appointment.
It is important to rest after the surgery. Healing is usually very rapid with noticeable vision improvement within a few days. Follow-up appointments throughout the next year are key to tracking the healing process and measuring the prescription changes.
For more detailed information about laser eye surgery, schedule a consultation with a laser vision doctor.