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Is Laser Eye Surgery OK for Children?


John Simon, MD, Albany Medical Center's ophthalmology chairman and a professor of pediatric ophthalmology, is just now warming to the idea of LASIK for adults (enough so, he says, that his wife is considering the procedure for her nearsightedness). But for a problem like lazy eye in children, Simon doesn't mince words.

"Glasses work perfectly well to protect what may be the one good eye. People with lazy eye won't have any better correction after LASIK, and you'll still have the compliance problem of not wearing a patch or contact," he tells WebMD.

"Fundamentally I have a problem [with the fact that] some of the aggressive LASIK surgeons will give false assumptions to parents that 'Johnny won't have crossed eyes any more.' That's just not true. I'm afraid that people will just say 'let's laser the child,'" he says.

As for Sferra, she fell into the category of having difficulty functioning because of her poor vision, making her the type of youngster Davidorf believes LASIK can most help.

"I had worn glasses since I was 3, and I had two eye muscle surgeries," Sferra explains. "When I was younger, glasses were no problem, but as I got older, I really hated them so much. Then I had hard contacts for two years but I broke one and couldn't replace it."

In addition, she wore a patch three times in an attempt to strengthen her weak eye when she was very young. "It was very embarrassing; kids were always asking what it was," Sferra tells WebMD.

Davidorf says her reactions are typical. "She had really heavy thick glasses. There is a stigma if a child is walking around with 'Coke bottles' on."

He says he knew they could use LASIK to correct her farsightedness by about 75% and because this type of vision problem often improves with age, this would be enough to give Sferra good functional vision that could get better. Currently, she doesn't wear glasses.

So far, Sferra is the only juvenile on whom Davidorf has performed the surgery but a group at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Eye and Ear Institute has used LASIK for children aged 5 to 8. Those youngsters also had anisometropic amblyopia but they were myopic, or nearsighted, rather than farsighted.

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