Health Team

Lasik eye surgery scrutinized

Posted April 25, 2008
Updated April 29, 2008

— The federal government is taking a second look at Lasik eye surgery following 140 patient complaints filed with the Food and Drug Administration in the past few years.

About one in four of the 700,000 Americans who undergo the elective laser surgery each year is not a good candidate for it. A small fraction, perhaps 1 percent or fewer, suffer serious, life-changing side effects: worse vision, severe dry eye, glare, inability to drive at night.

Three men in Maryland are among those who say Lasik surgery damaged their vision.

"Now everything is slightly double. I see three moons at night," Dean Kantis said.

"If I look out my worst eye, it's totally hazed over," claimed Michael Patterson.

"I certainly regret having it," Roger Davis said. "It was the worst thing that happened to me."

In Lasik eye surgery, doctors use a laser to reshape the cornea. The surgery has given millions of patients 20/20 vision.

"I was 20/80 before today," said Lori Hill, who recently underwent Lasik eye surgery. "They told me it was 20/15, and it's just the day after surgery. It's been wonderful so far."

Officials for the Society of Eye Surgeons said they have a 95 percent satisfaction rate.

Most side effects are rare and temporary, said Dr. Michael Kelly, an ophthalmologist who performs Lasik surgery in Raleigh.

"You will see some glare and halos at night for maybe the first week or six weeks," Kelly said. "Complications that we've seen, we've been able to deal with."

Kelly said that not everyone with bad vision is a good candidate. "That's determined by their corneal thickness and determined by their amount of near-sightedness," he said.

Patterson, though, said that his doctor identified him as a good candidate.

"The only way to protect yourself from Lasik is not to have it," Patterson said.

After a public hearing Friday, FDA advisers recommended that the agency make clearer the warnings it already provides for would-be Lasik patients:

  • Add photographs that illustrate what people suffering certain side effects actually see, such as the glare that can make oncoming headlights a huge "starburst" of light.
  • Clarify how often patients suffer different side effects, such as dry eye. Some eye surgeons say 31 percent of Lasik patients have some degree of dry eye before surgery, and it worsens for about 5 percent afterward. Other studies say 48 percent of Lasik recipients suffer some degree of dry eye months later.
  • Make more understandable the conditions that should disqualify someone from Lasik, such as large pupils or severe nearsightedness.
  • Spell out that anyone whose nearsightedness is fixed by Lasik is guaranteed to need reading glasses in middle age, something that might not be needed if they skip Lasik.

The FDA is pairing with eye surgeons to begin a major study next year to better understand which Lasik-surgery patients have bad outcomes.


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  • bigredtruckman Apr 29, 2008

    I had LASIK in 1998 and absolutely love the results. I couldn't wear contacts because of allergies and when I wore glasses I had terrible headaches.

    I had to sign the concent forms even though I was an excellent candidate, but this is common for all types of surgeries. I paid attention to my doctor, heeded all of the care instructions and was calm during the procedure. Being calm is key because for LASIK you must be awake but you cannot move one iota. If you are nervous or move, the results can be less than optimal.

    Back then, my doctor would only do one eye per day to minimize the risk of complications. Because I was so calm for my first eye, he asked if my second procedure could be taped by a television news crew. I think it was channel 17 that did the article, and they showed my surgery and a short interview afterward.

    10 years later, absolutely NO regrets. LASIK is fantastic.

  • NC Reader Apr 29, 2008

    I have a close friend who had Lasik a year ago. She had excruciating pain during the procedure (the warnings only said she might experience "some discomfort"). She has had terrible problems since -- painful, dry eyes and double vision in one eye. Her doctor kept dismissing her concerns and telling her that NO ONE ELSE (in that tone of voice) had complained of the symptoms she had. Finally, she went to another doctor who had stopped doing Lasik because of all the problems. This doctor was very sympathetic and has helped her some with the dry eyes. I'm glad that most people have had a good experience, but there are a lot of people out there whose problems have been dismissed.

  • davisnmom Apr 28, 2008

    I had a form of laser surgery in 2006. It was PRK and I also elected to have mono-vision to avoid reading glasses. I have been totally satisfied with the results.

    I knew when I signed the waivers that there was a possibility that there could be complications. It was the best money I have ever spent. Thanks, Dr. Dornic for a job well done.

  • allison842 Apr 28, 2008

    Lasik is awesome.

    As with any surgery, there are some risks of side effects, and EVERYONE who has had Lasik was told of the risks of halos, etc. I got mine done at Christenbury Eye Center in Charlotte and it was the best thing ever.

  • Citizen7265 Apr 28, 2008

    Many of us are good candidates for many types of surgery, but that does not guarentee our results will be perfect. When I had lasik in 1998, I was considered a excellent candidate. However, I still had to read the warnings and sign a consent form indicating I knew the possible complications. It was worth the risk to me, because I struggled with my contacts, and glasses are very uncomfortable due to nose structure. At 45, I still see 20/20 with no reading glasses. I do see some starburst effects from headlights at night, but that was a problem at times before surgery. A neighbor had the same surgery on the same day. He has not been pleased with results and blames the doctor. His vision is better, but not perfect. He signed the same forms I did, but feels he did not think they applied because the Dr. said he was a good candidate. If you have to sign it, the risks apply to you. People have to accept reality!

  • uncfan89 Apr 28, 2008

    oops! sent before I ment to. I still have 20/20 3 years later, I will need reading glasses at some point I have started to see that, but I have been nothing but pleased with my results, this was the best money that I ever spent. I had mine done at Lasik Plus in Raleigh they did a great job. I would do it again, if needed. I did have some halos around lights for the first week or so but it went away. Being glasses and contact free has been wonderful!!

  • uncfan89 Apr 28, 2008

    I had lasik surgery 3 years ago and loved my results. I had horrible vison before surgery and the day after surgery had 20/20 in one eye and 20/15 in the other. I still have 20/20