New Lasik Technology Promises Better Results...
Pilots, even more than most folks, tend to obsess over the limitations imposed by poor eyesight, and the inconvenience of glasses and contact lenses. Well, there's a new twist to the most common form of vision-correction surgery, Lasik. The new procedure, which uses wavefront-guided technology that was developed at NASA, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in August 2002. It's becoming more widely available as doctors acquire the equipment, and it got lots of attention at an eye surgeons' conference in San Francisco late last month. The system reportedly sharpens vision better than traditional Lasik, while avoiding side effects such as poor night vision or light sensitivity. The Washington Post recently published an in-depth look at how it works. According to the Post, the wavefront device shoots a wave of light into the eye, then takes detailed measurements based on the light's response, creating a three-dimensional database for the eye surgeon to work with. The 10-minute procedure to correct the eye is unchanged, but with the wavefront data as a "map," the doctor can work with greater precision. The technique theoretically results in sharper, crisper, better-quality vision, and should avoid some of the side effects that can occur with traditional Lasik procedures, such as nighttime vision difficulties, haloes, and glare.
...But (There Is Always A But)
Because the new technique requires expensive equipment, says the Post, the wavefront procedure will cost patients as much as $1,000 more than standard Lasik, which averages about $3,200 nationally. Results from clinical trials, the Post reported, showed that six months after surgery, 99 percent of 136 eyes saw 20/40 or better without glasses, while 80 percent were 20/20 or better, and 53 percent of patients said the sharpness of their vision without glasses had stayed the same or improved. The Post raised questions about the risks of a bad result, and whether all surgeons properly screen patients to ensure they are good candidates for the procedure. FDA data quoted by the Post showed the percentages of patients in the trials who reported that certain problems were "significantly worse" after the procedure: blurred vision (2.9); burning (1.5) dryness (2.2) and a "gritty feeling" (1.5). Also, one doctor told the Post that most patients in the clinical trial were moderately nearsighted and had little astigmatism, and suggested that the new technology offers more commercial appeal than clinical benefit.
NOTE:Read more about Lasik for pilots, from AVweb's archives: Dr. Brent Blue's personal experience, Dr. Kim Broadwell's overview, and Dr. Blue's analysis of pregnancy and Lasik. These articles were written prior to the advent of the new wavefront technology.