Better Sight For Sore Eyes With Laser Eye Surgery

After squirting a few drops of anaesthetic into a young investment banker’s eye, the surgeon hooks a metal speculum beneath the upper and lower lids to open it wide. He then warns his patient: “Here’s the uncomfortable bit,” as he presses a metal ring firmly on to the eye to immobilise it. This transforms the white of the eye instantly into a bloodshot mess.

The surgeon, Dan Reinstein, slots a metal blade, called a keratome, on to the ring and slowly shaves open a thin flap of cornea — the clear covering on the front of the eye. Professor Reinstein flips open the transparent corneal flap with tweezers so that the surface beneath it is ready to be reshaped with the laser. The machine buzzes into action and red flashing pinpricks of light dance over the iris as the laser vaporises the corneal cells. He then eases the flap back into place and tapes the eye shut. “Are you OK?” he asks the patient. “Mmm,” comes the reply. “Everything was great, perfect,” Professor Reinstein assures him. He moves on to the second eye and repeats the process. The whole operation, known as Lasik, takes about 15 minutes.

Moments later the patient, Hirst Horsch, a German banker working in London who has worn glasses since his teens, is sitting up on the operating table, eyes open and clearly overjoyed at the results. Professor Reinstein asks him if he can read the time on the clock on the wall. He replies, with a grin: “I can see it well. It’s like having my glasses on except they are slightly misted.” He adds: “It was better than I expected: no pain and very straightforward.” Three days and plenty of eyedrops later, Horsch, 37, was back at work in front of his computer screen. “Apart from a little burning just after the surgery, there was no pain. It cost £3,200 including the aftercare, but it was worth every penny. I wish I had done it earlier,” he says. His wife is planning to have the operation.

About 100,000 people a year in the UK undergo laser eye treatment, which involves reshaping corneas to correct short or long-sightedness, in one of the fastest growing areas of cosmetic surgery. Prices range from £750 to £2,000 per eye. Celebrities who have had the operation include Elton John, Nicole Kidman and Courtney Cox. But not every patient is as satisfied as Hirst Horsch.