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10 Things to Consider When Picking a LASIK Surgeon

January 11, 2009

The biggest hurdle in deciding to have LASIK surgery is to decide to have LASIK surgery.  Once one gets over this hurdle, the most important decision to be made is to pick a LASIK surgeon.  Here is my top 10 list of things to consider:

  1. Word of mouth:  Knowing someone who has had LASIK, and is thrilled with their results, is probably the number one way patients make their way to my office.  People tend to listen to people that they trust.  Patients who have been treated well, and have an excellent result are ambassadors to any successful LASIK practice.
  2. Testimonials:  Successful LASIK practices are only too happy to share testimonials of their patients with prospective candidates.  This can be in the form of: web site, Facebook fan club, YouTube videos, letters in the office, or a list of patients willing to discuss their experiences.  If you want to discuss LASIK with someone who has had the procedure, ask for a referral list. There is also a new web site, LASIK Testimonials, that allows patients to post their LASIK experiences.
  3. Doctor referral services:   There are several on-line referral services that can give you a list of LASIK surgeons in your community.  These include:  ASCRS, AAO, CRSQA, All About Vision, and Alcon-Wavelight Laser.
  4. Surgeon Experience:  Is the surgeon Board Certified? Is the surgeon LASIK certified?   How long has the surgeon been preforming LASIK?  How many procedures has the surgeon preformed?   Is LASIK the only procedure preformed, or does the surgeon have expertise in other refractive procedures such as LASEK, epiLASIK, PRK, CK, ICL, and Refractive Lens Implantation?  A surgeon well versed in the full gamut of refractive procedures will be able to tailor the appropriate surgery to your condition, instead of relying on LASIK only.
  5. LASIK Facility:  Is the LASIK preformed at a corporate center, a center shared by many surgeons, or in the surgeon's own facility?  All three scenarios provide excellent care, however a surgeon who operates in his own facility has total control of all variables involved in the LASIK procedure.  There is no need to compromise equipment based on the needs and desires of many surgeons.  There is also more surgeon control in maintenance, upgrade, and calibration of equipment 
  6. Full service or LASIK specific practice:  Many patients incorrectly think it better to get LASIK at a LASIK specific practice. I disagree.  At a full service practice with expertise in LASIK, all conditions can be addressed.  If a patient wears hard contacts, they need to be out 3 weeks before screenings.  At a full service practice, soft lenses can be given the patient for this period.  Some patients do not own glasses.  These patients need to be out of soft lenses for at least 3 days before surgery.  Temporary glasses can be given to these patients at a full service practice.  A small number of patients will need an enhancement after the original LASIK procedure.  These patients can be given temporary glasses or contacts until the enhancement can be scheduled.  Other patients may be better served by refractive procedures other than LASIK.  A full service practice is better equipped to provide these procedures.  And finally, with a downturn in the economy, full service practices are better able to withstand the economic pressures and survive.  Many LASIK only practices are dangerously close to insolvency in today's economic environment.
  7. Pre- and Post- Op care:  Many discount LASIK centers, in an effort to cut costs, have either technicians or optometrists provide screening services to determine a patient's candidacy for LASIK surgery.  Surgery is provided by a LASIK surgeon who may be seeing the patient for the first time.  Post-op care is again provided by technicians or optometrists.  At the other extreme, the operating surgeon will seen during the pre-op exam, during the surgery, and for post-op exams.  Some surgeons, including me, provide all LASIK patients with their cell numbers in the event of an emergency.
  8. The Excimer Laser:  The excimer laser is the instrument responsible for applying the refractive correction to the cornea.  It is by far the most important piece of equipment in the procedure.  The 2 best lasers on the market today are the Allegretto Wave and VISX S4. They both provide excellent results, providing superb postoperative vision.  I have owned both lasers, and prefer the Allegretto, others agree.  The quality of vision and lower enhancement rate were the deciding factors in my switching to the Allegretto.
  9. Results:  Most refractive practices track their results.  It is important to find out such stats as:  % patients who achieve 20/25 or better, % 20/20 or better, enhancement rate, and the number of patients treated with a similar prescription as you.
  10. The Interview:  Most LASIK practices offer free LASIK screening to both find out if you are a good candidate and to educate you about the procedure.  This is your opportunity to interview the practice and surgeon as well.  There are many questions that you should ask during the screening.  It is not a bad idea to check out a few LASIk practices before choosing the one that you feel most comfortable with. 

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