Sorting Through Conflicting LASIK Data
Submitted by Dr. Dean Dornic on Fri 06/19/2009 - 09:40
Patients researching LASIK often get bogged down by conflicting data on the success rates or complication rates of the LASIK procedure. I’ll often see success rates published that vary anywhere from 80% to 98%. Likewise the incidence of night driving difficulties after LASIK has been listed to be “as high as 16 percent”. Why the conflicting data? Well, there can be several reasons.
- Different “yardsticks”. For instance, what do we call success? Does success mean the patient no longer wears glasses? Or, that they are 20/20? How about lowering the bar to 20/40 (the level of vision necessary to have an unrestricted driver’s license in most states)? Success means different things to different people.
- Advances in technology. LASIK has been around 18 years. As with all medical procedures, newer equipment and evolutions in technique tend to increase “success” rates and decrease complication rates. Often when I see printed data that describes a higher than expected complication rate for LASIK, I find that the author has obtained their information from studies submitted years ago. Unless your surgeon is using outdated lasers and techniques, this older data would not apply.
- Differences in equipment/lasers used. Certainly you can talk about the fastest speed a car can travel but there is a difference in the maximum speed attainable by a Maserati vs. a Smart car. Likewise there are many different lasers that can be used to perform a LASIK procedure. The VISX Star S4 remains the gold standard for laser vision correction. This laser has the highest reported rate of 20/20 vision in an FDA trial ever reported. When the US military and NASA approved LASIK, it was the VISX laser that was used in their trials. It is also the laser currently being used by military surgeons to perform vision correction on our enlisted personnel.
Patients interested in vision correction are wise to become informed. Skepticism can be a helpful trait and the prudent investigator takes the time to ask: Is the data presented current? Is the information reliable i.e. from an FDA trial vs. unreviewed conclusions provided by a manufacturer or provider with a vested interest in the outcome? Does the data pertain to me? Reviewing conclusions about LASIK done mainly on nearsighted individuals may not have relevance if you are farsighted.
You can maximize your chance of success by insuring your procedure is done with the best available equipment and performed by a reputable, experienced surgeon.