Laser eye surgery guidelines released

Eye surgeons in the United States have released new guidelines for consumers to determine if they're a good candidate for laser eye surgery.

"There is a major need for credible, reliable information," says Dr. Roger Steinert of Harvard Medical School, who co-wrote the guidelines for the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

One of the most important tests involves finding out if the cornea is too thin or the pupil is too big. Most patients need half their original cornea thickness at least 250 microns remaining after surgery.

The guidelines also say if you need a new prescription for glasses every year, or have certain medical conditions that affect vision or surgical healing, you should not go through with the surgery.

About 100,000 Canadians pay between $1,000 to $3,000 every year to have the procedure done.

The two most common procedures are called the PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) and the LASIK (laser in situ Keratomileusis).

The PRK procedure is done on an outpatient basis. The laser reshapes the cornea by removing microscopic tissue from the surface with an ultraviolet light.

LASIK is the most common method. The surgeon uses a knife called a microkeratome to cut a flap of corneal tissue, remove the tissue beneath with a laser, then replace the flap.

Some studies say as many as one-third of laser eye patients experience problems with their night vision. This has lead the RCMP to issue a warning for their officers not to undergo the procedure.

Lawsuits are also lining up against some doctors for medical malpractice after patients experienced extreme side effects or blindness after the surgery.

The Eye Health Council of Canada, a consortium of optometrists, has set out questions consumers should ask themselves before considering the surgery:

  • Are you at least 18 years old?
  • Have you had stable vision a year prior to surgery?
  • Do you have diseases of the cornea or retina?
  • Are you fully aware of the potential risks?
  • Do you have a history of other eye health or general health problems?