Photorefractive keratectomy – or PRK – is the most time-tested form of laser refractive surgery. Not only is PRK the forefather of LASIK surgery, but it also remains an excellent alternative to LASIK. Patients whose thin corneas preclude them from being good candidates for LASIK may be able to achieve the same vision enhancing results with PRK.
The primary difference between PRK and LASIK lies in how the eye surgeon accesses the layer of cornea that underlies the outermost layer, or stroma. In LASIK, a laser or a blade is used to create a flap in the cornea. While this is an extremely safe process in patients with sufficiently thick corneas, those with thinner corneas are far more likely to experience complications at the flap-creation stage. As a result, most reputable laser surgeons will not perform LASIK on such patients.
PRK, however, does not require the creation of a corneal flap. Instead the entire stroma is removed, giving the surgeon perfect access to the underlying corneal layers. At this point, LASIK and PRK become identical procedures; in both, an excimer laser is used to reshape the cornea to eliminate any flaws that distort vision.
The healing period associated with PRK is longer, and potentially more uncomfortable, than that associated with LASIK. This is because the corneal stroma needs time to regenerate, whereas in LASIK patients, the corneal flap self-heals relatively quickly. Still, patients achieve similarly excellent results with PRK. Most PRK patients find that the clear, crisp vision they achieve more than justifies the longer period of healing.
To find out more about this extraordinary form of laser vision correction, please contact The Laser Vision Institute of the Virgin Islands.