What Happens If I Look Away, Blink, Cough Or Sneeze During Laser Eye Surgery?

It’s the day of your treatment and after a nice shoulder massage and a run through the final pre-procedure safety checks, the time you’ve been waiting has finally come.

Everything has gone well so far, and you feel like everything will — in fact, you know it will, thanks to being in the hands of a reassuring expert who knows the treatment like the back of their hand.

All you have to do, then, is lay back in the chair, follow the surgeon’s instructions, and, above all, don’t do anything stupid that could mess it all up.

This is at least how many people envisage the process. After all, when using lasers to make incredibly fine adjustments to your cornea, surely you have to remain as still as humanly possible so as not to avoid utter disaster?

Well, it is going to be a little difficult to have Laser Eye Surgery if someone is tickling you the whole way through it. Or, at least, if you’re a pro at resisting a good tickle, it might take a few hours longer than planned.

But the fact is, as the treatment is grounded in the latest technology and is also one of the safest elective procedures in the world, the worry about being able to do anything — voluntary or involuntary — that could mess with its results, is completely unfounded. 

Tracking your eyes faster than you can move

Your eyes are always moving. So much so that your point of view is almost continually changing, and if you manage to fixate your vision for long enough on a stabilised image, it can appear like it has completely disappeared.

The point is, movement is something that comes much more naturally to us and our eyes than keeping still. And so although it will happen at a level imperceptible to anyone, you and your eyes will move during surgery, and this is exactly why we have such an invention as eye-tracking technology.

Eye-tracking technology compensates for any eye movement during the treatment and ensures the laser pulses are only directed exactly in the right place.

There are different methods  — video infra-red, 3D, LADAR — the best of which involve detecting the position of your eye, photographing it up to 1000 times per second, and analysing the photos and position of the eyes instantaneously. There is still an incredibly minor lag between the laser noticing your eye has moved and compensating for that movement. However, it is not enough to impact the treatment.

All this goes to say that if you move, look the other way, or suddenly blink during Laser Eye Surgery, the procedure will not be affected. Once the safety systems are in place, including the eye-tracking system, you can move, cough, sneeze, fall off the bed, or even start playing tennis — as Prof Reinstein mentions in the video below — and it will not change the results.

It’s worth noting that whilst eye-tracking technology is incredible, it can only work if first, the clinic has the right technology for the job, and second, it’s used alongside the knowledge and experience of an expert surgeon.

That being said, many clinics today invest heavily in such safety systems and have great surgeons, particularly independent clinics that are driven not by how many patients they get through the door, but by the quality of service and care they provide.

If you’d like to find out more about how eye-tracking technology ensures there’s nothing you can do to mess up your treatment, drop a comment below or contact one of our friendly clinic coordinators.