How safe is Laser Eye Surgery?

Laser Eye Surgery expert Prof Dan Reinstein

When asking friends and family and talking to people around the office about Laser Eye Surgery, you’ll probably find a lot more people have had it than you first thought.

Not too long ago we couldn’t escape knowing if someone we know had received Laser Eye Surgery — they’d spend weeks fretting about the procedure, posting blogs about their journey, and making everyone else share their experience. But today it’s not so much of a big deal, even the tabloids and media outlets have lost interest.

Laser Eye Surgery was once a new and daring treatment, but now it’s just another routine procedure, carried out thousands of times a week in clinics and hospitals around the world.

The number of successful treatments around the world — over 35 million and counting — speak clearly to lingering concerns about its risks and safety. However, safety is still a conversation we need to be having. It’s just that today it’s no longer a question of is it safe and what are the risks, but rather which clinics have the best track records.

The vast majority of complications from eye surgery can be attributed back to the screening and assessment process. Things like overcorrection, undercorrection, prolonged dry eye, and night vision problems are not inherent risks of Laser Eye Surgery, they’re consequences of failing to select and assess patients correctly.

As the industry is largely unregulated, the standard of screening can vary wildly from clinic to clinic. This means that safety is in the hands of patients — particularly how well they can navigate the industry and recognise a high-quality clinic.

A high-quality clinic can be determined by several factors, but the most obvious is price. Laser Eye Surgery costs at least £4000 to perform, and so, if a clinic is offering treatments for less, you know they’re cutting corners somewhere. Most often this is by cramming lots of patients into a day, using outdated technology, and/or skimping on surgeon quality and training.

Don’t compromise on safety — learn how to spot a high-quality Laser Eye Surgery clinic

The amount of time a surgeon spends with each patient is critical to safety. Surgeons don’t want to be rushing through procedures, knowing they have a queue of patients left to attend to.

For this reason, some clinics have a limit of 4 or 5 patients a day. However, others may see 20 or 30 or even more. This is when mistakes happen — especially if the surgeon is using old systems and equipment.

At 25 years young, Laser Eye Surgery is still a relatively new treatment, and standards of performance and safety never stay the same for long. The limits set by old analysers and lasers just a few years back have already been surpassed, and the bar has been raised today by technologies such as The Artemis Insight 100 and the Carl Zeiss MEL 90 Excimer laser.

Another indicator of a clinic’s quality is the level of a surgeon’s expertise and performance. At the very least surgeons should have a certificate from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists and experience in your chosen treatment. But ideally, they’ll have additional formal refractive training, 5 to 10 years experience, and a good track record with patients with similar prescriptions to you. More often that not, surgeons at independent and private clinics will meet all of these criteria.

The reality of Laser Eye Surgery today is that it’s an incredibly safe procedure with very few risks. The biggest risk is the allure of marketing campaigns that tell us we can save money by opting for their bargain basement deals and time-limited offers. Unbeknownst to us, grabbing one of these deal often comes at the cost of compromising on safety.

Find out more about choosing the right clinic or book a consultation by leaving us a comment below or heading over to our contact page.