what are the most common complications following lasik surgery? how often do complications occur?
Doctor Answers 4
Most common complications after LASIK
I'm not sure I'd call it a complication, but the most common would be the potential need for a touch-up, or enhancement. This is a second surgery to fine-tune the initial result. The risk of needing this depends on your starting prescription, the laser used, whether wavefront technology is used, and the experience and skill of the surgeon. In my hands, the risk is below 5% for small to medium prescriptions, but climbs to 10% or even higher for very severe prescriptions.
Other common complications include glare and halos at night, which is relatively uncommon with advanced technology such as wavefront, and dryness. Studies vary, but these risks are generally considered to be in the 1-10% range, and are more of a "nuisance" side effect. Note that they can be quite severe, but that is generally rare, far less than 1% in my personal experience.
The serious, vision-threatening complications include infection, inflammation, flap complications, and ectasia (postoperative instability of the cornea). These complications are quite rare, occurring a fraction of a percent of cases. Serious vision threatening complications with LASIK are on a par with the risk of serious vision threatening complications associated with wearing soft contact lenses.
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Sides Effects after LASIK
The most common side effects include dryness and fluctuating vision during the healing phase, a need for a second procedure, called an enhancement, or vision which is great but not perfect. LASIK is one of the safest elective procedures performed.
Complications After LASIK
In my opinion, the most serious potential complication after LASIK is infection. In my 17 years of experience, and 71,000 cases, I have never had an infection after LASIK. This is a byproduct of diligent preoperative and postoperative care, and surgical technique, not luck. I tell patients that the risk of infection from LASIK exists for only about 4-5 hours.....from the moment I start the procedure, until about 5 hours postop. By that point, the surface of the cornea has healed back and the infection risk essentially falls to zero. My patients that have worn contact lenses for years quickly realize that they have exposed their eyes to countless more risks by abusing their contacts, than having LASIK.
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Complications are unlikely after LASIK
LASIK is one of the most frequently performed surgeries in the world today, and fortunately, complications are relatively uncommorn. This somewhat depends on how one defines complication. If it includes getting a result that is less than a perfect correction, then one might say that the rate is higher. Most consider complications to be something that was unanticipated or unwanted. Most complications had to do with the first step in LASIK, making the corneal flap. By having the procedure peformed with the blade free, Intralase, or other femtosecond laser methods, the risks of these problems are greatly reduced. Other complications can occur with healing such as wrinkled flaps, light sensitivity, or decreased best corrected vision. Most of these problems are transient or can be repaired if caught early.
There are also what is known as side effects in LASIK surgery such as dry eyes, halos at night, or difficulty with low constrast conditions. These are again usually temporary or mild but with the older laser technology especially, can be moderate or severe.
Serious sight threatening complications are rare such as infection, but need to be watched for nonetheless.
Overall, it is important to understand that LASIK is extremely safe and some studies have shown it to be safer than wearing contact lenses for an extended period of time. It is a process of not only having the procedure, but one that starts before the procedure with proper screening and continues into the post operative period for several months and sometimes longer. Be sure you have a doctor who you are confident in not only to do the LASIK but to manage and coordinate any care you may need however unlikely problems may be.
These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.