Laser Eye Surgery Treatments: What is PRK?

The world of Laser Eye Surgery is one packed full of complicated jargon and abbreviations that can leave you spinning with confusion. However, being informed about the procedure can help to set your mind at ease on the run-up to your treatment day and throughout the recovery process. Thankfully, there are really only three key procedures you need to be aware of: LASIK, ReLEx SMILE and the so-called ‘surface procedures’.

In this article, we’re going to be focusing on the original surface procedure: PRK. Short for Photorefractive keratectomy, PRK can be described as the trusty Grandfather of Laser Eye Surgery. It was the first technique to be introduced way back in 1987.

But don’t let its age fool you. PRK is still an extremely useful and effective Laser Eye Surgery technique that is widely offered at clinics throughout the UK and the rest of the world. So, how does PRK work?

How Does PRK Laser Eye Surgery Work?

PRK is based on the same fundamental principle as all Laser Eye Surgery techniques. For decades, refractive surgeons have proven that reshaping the cornea can change the way light is reflected into the eye, effectively enabling them to correct a whole range of refractive errors.

Today, PRK and other Laser Eye Surgery techniques can be used to correct myopia (short-sightedness), hyperopia (long-sightedness), astigmatism, and even presbyopia (ageing eyes)! So, let’s take a closer look at how this technique works.

All Laser Eye Surgery techniques require the surgeon to be able to access the permanent, stromal layer of the cornea through the epithelium (surface layer). In LASIK, the most commonly performed Laser Eye Surgery procedure, this is achieved with the creation of a corneal flap. In SMILE, a small incision is created in the epithelium. However, in surface procedures – known as surface ablation – things are done slightly differently.

Both PRK and LASEK involve the complete removal of a section of the corneal epithelium. This is moved to one side to allow the surgeon to reshape the corneal bed beneath.

Expert Laser Eye Surgeon and London Vision Clinic founder, Prof. Dan Reinstein explains more in the video below.

Youtube video link
PRK is extremely similar to the other surface procedure – LASEK – but there are some key differences:
  • In PRK, a microkeratome (blade) or high-precision laser is used to remove a portion of the epithelium. In LASEK, an alcohol solution is applied to loosen the area of epithelium.
  • The surgeon uses a second laser to perform the pre-determined corrections which have been calculated based on the results of your screening appointment.
  • In PRK, the epithelium is discarded and a protective soft contact lens is placed over the exposed area of the cornea until the epithelium grows back – this usually takes around 3-5 days. In contrast, in LASEK, the epithelium is put back in place and a soft contact lens is again applied over the top.

What are the Advantages of PRK?

The introduction of newer Laser Eye Surgery techniques has meant that PRK is not as popular as it once was – but that’s not to say it doesn’t have its advantages.

As Laser Eye Surgeon Mr. Glenn Carp explains in the video below, PRK does have some advantages over LASIK in some patients.

Youtube video link

“The patients who are very active, do lots of sports, particularly sports which are contact related, for example, boxing, martial arts, high impact sports like windsurfing, kite surfing and things like that.  So where we may suspect the patient may develop an injury to the eye or have a much higher risk of injury, PRK would lend itself to those treatments. 

“Also patients with extremely thin corneas sometimes, more of the prescription is able to be treated because you are not losing some of the tissue in creating a flap.  So in some patients, PRK will be more of an advantage over LASIK.”

If you’d like to learn more about the treatments available at London Vision Clinic, get in touch with one of our friendly clinic coordinators today. Alternatively, Book a Consultation to start your journey to clear, glasses-free vision.