Astigmatic keratotomy eye surgery -- or AK -- and the more commonly performed limbal relaxing incision, or LRI, surgery are safe and effective. In recent years, AK, has been largely replaced by LASIK.
The cornea of people who have astigmatism is shaped like a football. Astigmatic keratotomy eye surgery corrects astigmatism by making one or two incisions at the steepest part of the cornea. These incisions cause the cornea to relax and take a more rounded shape, thereby reducing astigmatism.
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People with mild eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions generally have the most success in obtaining normal vision after astigmatic keratotomy eye surgery. People with more severe astigmatisms may still require glasses or contact lenses after astigmatic keratotomy eye surgery.
What Are the Advantages of Astigmatic Keratotomy Eye Surgery?
Astigmatic keratotomy eye surgery is a safe and effective way to correct astigmatism and it's often used in conjunction with other vision correction procedures.
What Are the Disadvantages of Astigmatic Keratotomy Eye Surgery?
There are disadvantages of astigmatic keratotomy and radial keratotomy -- or RK -- a form of astigmatic keratotomy. They include:
Discomfort (usually mild and lasting two to three days).
Results, both good and bad, are permanent.
What Are the Potential Side Effects of Astigmatic Keratotomy Eye Surgery?
Although rare, side effects from astigmatic keratotomy eye surgery can occur. They may include:
Fluctuating vision, especially during the first few months after surgery
A weakened cornea, more vulnerable to rupture if hit directly
Difficulty in fitting contact lenses
Glare or starburst around lights that can sometimes be permanent
How Should I Prepare for Astigmatic Keratotomy?
Before deciding on AK, your medical history will be evaluated, and your eyes will be tested. Likely tests include measuring corneal thickness, refraction, corneal mapping, eye pressure, and pupil dilation. Once you have gone through your evaluation, your surgeon will tell you what to expect before, during, and after surgery and answer any questions you may have. Afterwards, you can schedule an appointment for astigmatic keratotomy.
If you wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses, you should not wear them during the three weeks before your evaluation. Other types of contact lenses shouldn't be worn for at least three days prior to the evaluation.
On the day of your eye surgery, eat a light meal before going to the doctor's office, and take all of your prescribed medications. Do not wear eye makeup or have any bulky accessories in your hair that will interfere with positioning your head under the laser. If you do not feel well that morning, call the doctor's office to determine whether the surgery needs to be postponed.
What Happens During Astigmatic Keratotomy?
AK is done with topical anesthesia put directly into the eye, and the entire procedure generally lasts a maximum of 10 minutes for both eyes. It involves making one or two incisions at the steepest part of the cornea. This causes the cornea's football-shape, which is causing the astigmatism, to relax into a rounded shape.
RK is also done under topical anesthesia, and the entire procedure also lasts only a few minutes. It generally involves making four to eight incisions from the periphery towards the center of the cornea to decrease its curvature of the cornea.