The following article by Eye Consultants of Texas founder Phillips Kirk Labor, MD appears in the February 2011 issue of Society Life magazine. The article is part of the magazine’s series titled “The Doctor Is In.”
THE DOCTOR IS IN
By Phillips Kirk Labor, MD | Founder/Chief Eye Surgeon, Eye Consultants of Texas
LASIK is very effective in helping to correct vision defects that require eyeglasses or contact lenses. Quite often, LASIK is advertised and promoted on low price. The real value behind this procedure is the technology used, your eye surgeon’s knowledge and how you’re cared for from your first exam to post-op.
LASIK received official FDA approval more than a decade ago, although its beginnings go back several years earlier. LASIK was developed as a way to correct mainly nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism to help do away with the need to wear glasses and contacts.
Fundamentally, LASIK uses laser technology to create a flap on the outer layer of your eye, also known as the cornea. This is important to safety, comfort, faster healing and clearer vision. A laser is then used to treat the inner flap to correct the vision problem. The flap is then returned to its original position where it seals without stitches.
Thanks to continued innovations, LASIK has come a long way. One of today’s most advanced, the IFS Femtosecond Laser, is used with additional technology called VISX STAR IR 4 to create an “all-laser” procedure. The flap that’s created can actually be customized to each individual eye, and precision is greatly enhanced. Combining these IFS and VISX technologies is referred to as iLASIK which has improved on what other advanced technologies offer today.
Knowledge and experience certainly are critical, both on the technology used, and general LASIK expertise. Here’s something else to consider: the number of surgeries a doctor has performed – LASIK as well as other types of vision care procedures. On one hand, if a surgeon has performed a high number of surgeries this translates to experience. On the other hand, how many surgeries does he or she perform in one day? If the surgeon is trying to perform as many as possible this may not translate to proper patient attention. All things considered, the technology is most effective if the surgeon understands it, is experienced and applies essential doctor-patient care.
Understandably, patients always want to know how much LASIK costs since it’s not covered by insurance. Quite often, you’ll see LASIK promoted at an unbelievably low price, so the first thing to read is the disclaimer. Typically an amazingly low price on LASIK is based on very specific circumstances and doesn’t apply to everyone. Certainly, your LASIK surgeon should charge a fee that’s in line with other practices. What’s more, he or she should be up front with you about it. The difference between a deep discount and reality can be large, and how pricing is communicated can reflect on the overall integrity of the eye surgeon and the entire practice.
When making the decision to have LASIK, here are some other important things to know and discuss with your doctor:
“Am I a LASIK candidate?” A thorough examination will be necessary to make sure LASIK is the answer. Your specific vision defect and, in some cases, your overall health might require another type of treatment. If you’re not a candidate, there are many alternative treatments than are effective as well.
“What are the risks?” Even the simplest medical procedures come with risks. Advancements such as iLASIK are further minimizing risk, but you owe it to yourself to know the facts. Whomever will be doing the procedure should tell you everything up front.
“What can I expect?” You deserve to know what will happen before, during, and after your surgery. This should be explained to you in detail, allowing for any questions you may have.
The bottom line to remember is that LASIK, like any other healthcare procedure, involves a doctor-patient relationship – a relationship that starts with the doctor earning and keeping each patient’s trust. As a surgeon, you not only want your patients to see better, you want them to feel great about the entire experience.