PRK vs LASIK Eye Surgery

LASIK Eye Surgery Information

PRK Eye Surgery is a Type of Laser Vision Correction

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is a procedure in which the surface of the cornea is reshaped using an excimer laser. This process removes only 5-10% of the thickness of the cornea for mild to moderate myopia - about the thickness of 1 to 3 human hairs. Anesthetic drops will be applied to the patient's eye to numb it and prevent discomfort during the procedure and a device is placed to hold the lids apart, eliminating any concern about blinking. The eye surgeon then gently removes the surface corneal cells (epithelium) and proceeds with the laser aspect of the procedure. The laser, being computer driven for accuracy and precision, is programmed based on the patient’s refractive error (nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism). The PRK laser delivery takes less than one minute for most patients. Once the PRK refractive ablation is completed, i.e., the corneal curvature is reshaped, the surgeon places a bandage contact lens on the eye for improved comfort along with anti-inflammatory and antibiotic eye drops.

PRK Recovery vs LASIK Recovery

PRK recovery starts when a contact lens is placed on the treated eye and is worn for the first 3 to 5 days until the surface epithelium is healed. Expect to attend several appointments with you PRK surgeon during the first month following PRK surgery recovery, with the first visit being the day after surgery. When the surface epithelium is healed the eye will be comfortable and the bandage contact lens is removed. Vision may still be blurry at this time as your vision gradually improves. Typically your PRK recovery will be good enough to drive a car within a week or two, but your best corrected vision may not be obtained for up to 6 weeks to 3 months following surgery. PRK surgery results are very similar to LASIK results, at least for patients up to approximately 6.0 diopters of myopia (nearsightedness). However, in general, PRK recovery will be somewhat slower than LASIK patients. In addition, studies at the 6 month  postoperative visit in both patients show essentially equivalent results with this range of myopia. 

PRK Side Effects & PRK Complications vs LASIK 

PRK surgery was invented in the early '80s. The first FDA approval of a PRK laser surgery was in 1995, but the procedure was practiced in other countries for years prior.  PRK surgery does not create a corneal flap utilizing the microkeratome, and therefore, the protective superficial layers of the cornea must heal post-surgery. This generally means that patients who undergo this surgery will require significantly more recovery time than LASIK patients in order to achieve their best vision, however the outcomes of PRK vs. LASIK eye surgery are quite comparable 6 months following surgery.  The most common PRK side effects are complications of scarring (haze) and unpredictable healing of the cornea. In addition, PRK side effects also include risk of infection, although infections following either the PRK vs LASIK are rare. Many surgeons prefer PRK surgery for patients with larger pupils or thin corneas.  Additionally, PRK is the only procedure allowed by the US Marines since PRK complications and side effects of PRK are minimal.


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