Photorefractive keratectomy is a laser surgery used to reshape the surface of the cornea to improve mild to moderate myopia. In PRK, about 5 to 10 percent of the thickness of the cornea, which is equivalent to the thickness of one to two strands of hair, is removed. The procedure is quite effective, giving between 80 and 90 percent of patient’s 20/20 vision without glasses after the one-year recovery point. As many as 98 percent have 20/40 vision.
What to Expect
The PRK procedure begins with anesthetic drops applied to the patient’s eye. This prevents any discomfort during surgery. Then, the doctor will use a device to open the eyelid. Once the eye is ready, the eye surgeon will remove the surface corneal cells, and then use the laser to reshape the cornea. The procedure is programmed via computer to account for the patient’s unique physiology. Once the procedure is over, the patient will be fitted with a contact lens to allow the area to heal.
After PRK surgery, the patient will wear the contact lens for three to five days to allow the surface epithelium to heal. Within a week or two, the patient’s eyes should be healed enough to drive a car safely. Best corrected vision, however, will take longer. Most patients will experience their best corrected vision by at least the three-month post-surgery mark.
PRK offers similar results as other laser eye corrective surgeries, but it has some distinct benefits. First, it does not require a corneal flap, so it allows the surgeon to use the entire thickness of the underlying stroma to treat the vision problem. For those who have had prior laser surgery or whose corneas are too thin for other surgical treatments may be able to undergo PRK surgery as a result, because only a small amount of the cornea has to be removed.
If you are curious about PRK surgery, talk to your eye doctor about the possibilities. For many patients, PRK surgery provides a viable option when other surgeries are not a possibility.