LASEK - Laser Eye Surgery

What is LASEK?

LASEK (Laser sub-epithelial keratomileusis) eye surgery is an alternative procedure to LASIK. It is a modified version of PRK, or photo refractive keratectomy, a previous type of laser eye surgery.

Is LASEK different to LASIK?

The LASEK procedure is virtually the same as LASIK, however instead of making a deep flap to allow access to the stroma, a much thinner flap is used, only removing the thin outer covering of the eye called the epithelium using something called a trephine. The laser can then be used to remodel the underlying cornea before the epithelium is replaced allowing the eye to heal.

Who should have LASEK?

This procedure could be better for you if you have a very steep cornea, or a cornea that is too thin for LASIK as LASEK produces a much thinner epithelial flap.

Should I have LASEK instead of LASIK?

The one disadvantage to this procedure is the longer recovery times and the risk of the epithelial flap becoming dislodged which can be painful. In fact, people who have this procedure often have more complications than the other procedures. This leads to this operation being performed less than LASIK.

How is the LASEK surgery carried out?

You will be made comfortable in a reclining chair and the ophthalmologist will explain to you how the operation will work. Anaesthetic eye drops will be given to you to prevent you feeling any pain from the procedure. Once your eye has been immobilised using a suction cap on the front of the eye to hold the eye steady (this is removed later), a thin slice of epithelium will be removed using a special instrument called a trephine. This procedure is painless and very quick. Due to the thin nature of the epithelium, it is vital that before it is bent back it must be adequately softened. This is done by adding drops of an alcohol solution into the eye. After around 1 minute, this solution can be mopped up, allowing the ophthalmologist to peel back the epithelial flap.

Once the layer below the epithelium has been exposed (Bowman’s layer in LASEK as opposed to the stromal layer in LASIK), a laser (an eximer or femtosecond laser) can be used to perform the remodelling in LASEK laser eye surgery. This is a very fast and accurate procedure, which will require your eye to be immobilised. Once finished, the epithelium can be carefully put back into place allowing it to stick to the front of the eye and heal naturally.

Sometimes when trying to fold back the epithelial layer, it can break off. This is not a problem as the procedure can go ahead. All that happens is that the procedure changes to PRK instead of LASEK.

What happens after the LASEK procedure?

Following LASEK surgery, you will be required to wear a special contact lens on the treated eye that will help the epithelium repair. This will take a longer period of time than other procedures, approximately 5 days compared to 1 or 2. However it is less likely that your eye will become irritated or infected. You may also be required to wear a patch or dark glasses following the procedure to prevent any light damaging your eye. It is also essential that you follow the recovery information given to you by the ophthalmologist. Your eyesight should return to normal after about a week and you may experience a little more pain than the other procedures.

How much does LASEK cost?

Depending on the laser eye surgery clinic, LASEK costs about the same as LASIK does, which can be approximately £1000 per eye including aftercare. Your surgeon will advise you as to whether this procedure is right for you.

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