Jan. 2, 2007 -- New research should reassure the millions of people who have had laser surgery to correct nearsighted vision over the last two decades.
Jorge L. Alio, MD, PhD, and colleagues reported that only 20% of patients with low to moderate nearsightedness needed retreatment over the 10 year-year period.
LASIK Safe and Effective
LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis) is the most common laser surgery for correcting nearsightedness, known medically as myopia. Sometimes called "flap and zap surgery," surgeons performing LASIK first cut a small flap in the cornea and then reshape tissue exposed by the flap to correct vision.
Complications in the years following the surgery were rare in study participants, regardless of the degree of vision correction. Most of the complications that did occur happened in the days or weeks after surgery, and not years later, researchers found.
The research appears in the January 2008 issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.
"These findings can be considered extraordinarily reassuring," says Atlanta eye surgeon George O. Waring, MD, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. "We can now say with great certainty that this is a safe procedure long term."
Not Best Choice for Severe Myopia
Roughly 18 million LASIK surgeries have been performed since the early 1990s, but LASIK is no longer considered the best choice for patients who are severely nearsighted, Waring says.
These days, surgical implantation of a corrective contact lens following removal of the natural lens is the preferred treatment for the roughly 10% of myopic patients with very severe nearsightedness.
This is likely to remain the case, Waring says, despite the fact that Alio and colleagues found LASIK to be both safe and effective over the long term in most patients in their study who were highly myopic.
"This study has allowed us to demonstrate that, in spite of the prejudices about the limits of LASIK, the results regarding predictability, efficacy and safety for highly myopic patients are very good in the long term," Alio and colleagues write.
But Waring counters that there is no need to revisit LASIK as a treatment for severe nearsightedness because the lens implantation procedure works so well.
"Most patients who have lens implant surgery are very happy with the results," he says.