Automated Lamellar Keratoplasty Eye Surgery (ALK)
ALK, or Automated lamellar keratoplasty, is a procedure used to correct vision in people with severe nearsightedness and mild degrees of farsightedness. ALK is no longer routinely performed due to more predictable results from other vision correction procedures.
What Happens During ALK Eye Surgery?
ALK, performed under local anesthesia, usually takes less than an hour to complete. A cutting device is used to make a small incomplete flap across the cornea. While still attached at one side, the flap is folded back to reveal the layer of tissue below. Another, very precise cut based on the person's eyeglass prescription is made on the sub layer of tissue. After this cut, the corneal flap is placed back over the eye where it reattaches.
What Are the Advantages of ALK Eye Surgery?
Compared to other vision repair surgeries:
- The healing process for ALK is relatively quick.
- It takes less time for stable vision to return.
- Recovery period is more comfortable.
What Are the Disadvantages of ALK Eye Surgery?
While ALK is a safe and effective surgery, it does have its disadvantages. They include:
- For people with mild to moderate nearsightedness, ALK is not as accurate as other eye procedures, meaning that its outcome is more difficult to predict.
- ALK slightly increases a person's risk of developing an irregular astigmatism.
What Are the Potential Side Effects of ALK Eye Surgery?
Aside from the above-mentioned disadvantages, side effects, though rare, do occur with ALK. These may include:
- Inability to wear contacts, sometimes permanently
- Corneal scarring
How Should I Prepare for ALK Eye Surgery?
Before ALK you will meet with a coordinator to discuss what you should expect during and after the surgery. During this session your medical history will be evaluated and your eyes will be tested. Likely tests will include measuring corneal thickness, refraction, corneal mapping, eye pressure, and pupil dilation. Once you have gone through your evaluation, you will meet the surgeon, who will answer any questions you may have. Afterwards, you can schedule an appointment for ALK eye surgery.
If you wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses, you should not wear them during the three weeks before ALK. Other types of contact lenses should not be worn for at least three days prior to surgery. Be sure to bring your glasses to the surgery so your prescription can be reviewed.
On the day of your eye surgery, eat a light meal before going to the doctor 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 Should I Expect After ALK Eye Surgery?
The healing time from ALK is very rapid. It usually takes only about 24 hours to mend. But it may take a few weeks for your vision to finally stabilize.
Your doctor will give you eye drops to control inflammation, discomfort, and prevent infection.
To better understand your options, see Am I a Candidate for Refractive or Laser Eye Surgery?
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