PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery and traditional LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) are two different types of laser vision correction surgery that are highly effective when performed by an expert surgeon on a patient who is an ideal candidate. Providence Eye & Laser Specialists looks at the differences between PRK and LASIK to explain how certain patients may be better suited for one over the other.

1. Patient Evaluation – PRK vs LASIK

Determining if a patient is a suitable candidate for any laser vision correction procedure is critical to an optimal outcome and a successful experience. Like many things in life, laser vision correction surgery is not “one size fits all.” At the initial consultation, the patient will be evaluated by an experienced, qualified surgeon, and he/she will determine the best option for vision correction.

The main difference between PRK surgery and traditional LASIK is the manipulation of a patient’s corneal tissue. During the initial consultation, the ophthalmologist will examine a few factors to determine what type of laser vision correction surgery is best for the patient. There are a few key characteristics that may indicate that PRK is a better solution than LASIK. They include the following:

  • Previous corneal damage and/or scarring via injury, infection or age that creates corneal fragility
  • Increased risk for long-term dryness and/or issues with eye dryness before the procedure
  • Professional or personal activities that include high risks for ocular injuries (professional athletes, the military)
  • Corneal thickness that is inadequate for flap creation
  • General corneal irregularities that may pose a problem with a traditional LASIK procedure

2. Flap (LASIK) vs. No-Flap (PRK)

Traditional LASIK vision correction procedures create a small, thin flap close to the corneal surface and slightly reshape the eye’s underlying tissue with a laser beam. Think of it like opening a book up in the middle, removing a few pages, and closing the book back up. While PRK surgery utilizes the exact same laser technology as traditional LASIK, PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy) does not create a corneal flap as a first step. Instead, a very small area of corneal skin is quickly and painlessly removed to allow for the same laser to then be used to correct the vision in the tissue underneath. Using the same book analogy, a small area of the cover of the book is taken away and then starting with page one, a few pages off the book are removed and then the cover regenerates itself in a few days. After PRK surgery, a contact lens is placed on the eye for a few days to allow new tissue to quickly grow back underneath it.

3. Recovery Time

While PRK surgery does have a longer recovery time to achieve full results compared to traditional LASIK, most PRK patients see well enough to drive and work a few days after the procedure. Despite a small difference in recovery time, patients who receive PRK surgery from reputable surgeons experience the same clear vision as traditional LASIK patients.

It is important to keep in mind that neither surgery is necessarily a “better” procedure than the other. When an experienced surgeon assesses whether traditional LASIK or PRK surgery is appropriate, they determine the final recommendation based on each individual patient.

To determine if you are a candidate for LASIK or PRK, schedule a complimentary consultation today.