Anyone considering LASIK or any eye surgery for that matter will want to know that the procedure is safe and has a solid overall track record of safety so that they can overcome any fear or anxiety they might have regarding the procedure. The safety of LASIK depends on a number of factors. By far the most important factors that can affect LASIK safety are the laser and instrumentation to be used to perform the treatment and even more so, the skill and experience of the LASIK Surgeon.
Long Term Track Record
Laser Eye Surgery for the Laser Vision Correction of nearsightedness was first performed in the United States upon Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of the Excimer Laser on October 20, 1995. The Excimer Laser was specifically FDA approved for LASIK in 1998. So as of 2010, Laser Eye Surgery for Laser Vision Correction using the Excimer Laser has been performed for just under 15 years and the LASIK procedure has been performed under FDA approval for just over 10 years. It is estimated that some 16 million patients worldwide have had LASIK. LASIK is generally considered one of the most successful and safe surgical procedures of any type. In skilled hands nearsighted patients can expect to achieve 20/40 vision more than 98 percent of the time, and uncorrected vision of 20/20 or 20/25 in more than 90 percent of cases. The safety record is equally as impressive with regard to the loss of best-corrected vision. Vision loss to a level of worse than 20/40 is quite rare after LASIK, occurring in about only 3 per 1,000 cases. Serious complications, such as infection or corneal damage, occur even more infrequently in fewer than 1 in 1,000 cases. While not an infinite amount of time, the availability of the various Laser Vision Correction procedures, including LASIK for this 10-15 year timeframe with these results does give us access to real world experience and data that can be used to evaluate the various Laser Eye Surgery procedures and their safety. But, there is more to safety than simply the Laser device itself.
Safety is the Hands of the LASIK Surgeon
FDA approval provides some assurance that a particular medical device, in this case an Excimer Laser, is safe and effective for its intended use. However, the FDA does not have the authority or jurisdiction to regulate physician practices or in any way get involved in the practice of medicine. As a practical matter then, FDA approval does not indicate that a LASIK Surgeon is going to provide a thorough evaluation and consultation. FDA approval does not indicate or imply that LASIK Surgeons will provide a complete review of the possible risks and complications of LASIK-nor does it imply that a LASIK Surgeon will use the appropriate screening and decision criteria to be sure that a patient is in fact a good candidate for LASIK or any Laser Eye Surgery for that matter.
Thus with regard to LASIK safety, choosing a LASIK Surgeon is the most important decision a patient makes in deciding to have LASIK and is a significant part of making LASIK a safe and effective procedure. You should not choose a LASIK Surgeon based on slick advertising or low price. You should choose a LASIK Surgeon based on reputation in the community, the length of time they have been performing LASIK and the comfort and rapport established during your consultation. While the equipment used may provide a slight advantage or disadvantage in safety, it is ALWAYS the skill and experience of the surgeon that contributes the most to the overall safety of Laser Eye Surgery for the correction of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.