Also known as Advanced Surface Treatment, is ideal for patients with higher prescriptions, thin corneas, dry eyes, and/or strong prescriptions. It involves treatment to the surface of the cornea, without creating an incision flap. The procedure usually takes longer to heal than LASIK, but it causes less thinning of the cornea. Patients who want to further maximize safety and steer clear of the added risks of LASIK are good candidates for Epi-LASIK.
EVOLUTION OF EPI-LASIK
Prior to LASIK, Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) was once the most common refractive surgery procedure. It involves removing the surface of the cornea (epithelium) to expose the corneal tissue to be sculpted. PRK was invented in the early 1980’s. Laser epithelial keratomileusis (LASEK) is a newer variation of PRK, and relies on concentrated alcohol to remove the epitehlium. Epi-LASIK is the next generation of LASEK.
LASIK involves creating a flap in the cornea with either a microkeratome or a laser. In Epi-LASIK however, a special oscillating “separator” is used to remove the surface of the cornea (epithelium). By removing the epithelium mechanically, there is less injury to the surrounding tissues. After the epithelium is removed, the excimer laser treats the underlying corneal tissue. A bandage contact lens is then placed on the eye to protect the surface while it heals.
Initially, vision will be blurry, but as the surface heals, the vision will improve slowly over the following few days. The bandage contact lens is usually removed after one week. The vision will not be perfect immediately; some patients do achieve 20/40 or even 20/20 vision within a few days, but others can take longer — possibly three to six months — to reach their final result. However, most patients can see well enough to drive about a week after surgery. As with any laser eye surgery, it is very important to follow all instructions exactly, since the quality of the final vision you achieve is affected by how well your corneas heal.