So you've decided you're ready to go for it and get LASIK. The next big decision is, WHERE? It's not a bad idea to get a consultation at more than one place so you can be sure you are choosing a LASIK center you are comfortable with. I would recommend you do careful research, ask lots of questions, and think about the following attributes of each one:
1. Cleanliness, Appearance and Staff: What is your first impression of the office? Are the staff members accommodating, friendly, and kind? Staff appearance and demeanor speak volumes. If it's obvious that the staff members take pride in their jobs, you can feel confident you are in good hands. Every time I go to a doctors office, I wonder how clean everything actually is. I can't help but wonder... when was the last time everything got disinfected? I judge by the general tidiness of the office and the personal cleanliness of staff.
2. Technology and Equipment: Ask what type of equipment is used. Is it the newest technology? Educate yourself on some of the buzzwords that describe LASIK. Here are a few short video-linked descriptions of words to know.
3. Relationship With Your Eye Doctor: Will the surgeon work with your current eye doctor? Many surgical centers have affiliations with optometry offices, meaning you can do all of your pre-op and post-op at your local optometrist. As you continue your annual exams with your regular eye doctor after your surgery, he or she keeps lines of communication open with the surgeon. Your optometrist can advocate for you in the unlikely event that you are unsatisfied with your LASIK results in the future.
4. Risk of Side Effects and Complications: Ask about the rates of complications and the rates of side effects at that particular surgical center. Know the industry averages and compare. On large scale studies, complications during surgery are very rare- less than 1%. As far as side effects go, about 30% of patients report dry eyes, glare, halos, or night vision difficulty. These side effects are usually part of the healing process and in most cases are completely resolved or significantly improved after 6 to 12 months.
5. Guarantee of Results and Patient Satisfaction: Most importantly, what are the vision center’s success rates for achieving visual acuity of 20/20 or better? What are the chances of needing an enhancement? Again, compare their answers to those of the recent literature: In a 2016 study, 99% of LASIK patients achieved vision of 20/40 or better and 90% achieved vision of 20/20 or better. The likelihood of needing an enhancement is less than 2 percent over the first 12 months and increases by 1% each year after that. Just in case you happen to be one of those in need of an enhancement, be sure to ask: Does the provider offer a lifetime commitment on the results, including enhancements at no additional cost?
6. Candidate Selection: Don't forget to ask: How many patients get turned down? A center that is overly eager to perform a surgery is always a red flag. A reputable surgeon will turn down around 20% of patients simply because that is about how many people are bad candidates. You should never get the feeling you are being pressured. A surgical consultation should NOT feel like a sales pitch.
LASIK is a wonderful thing and I encourage you and support you if you've made the decision to go through with it. But don't make a hasty decision. Your eyes are a big deal.