laser eye surgery gone wrong

“Laser eye surgery techniques have improved considerably since the procedure was first introduced that laser eye surgery is now considered extremely safe. However, it’s always good to be aware of the risks involved, no matter how small they are. We take a look at these risks in this article.”


How Safe Is Laser Eye Surgery?

Laser eye surgery is a very popular treatment nowadays. Over 100,000 people undergo this procedure in the UK each year.

The key to this popularity is that it is now considered an extremely safe procedure. Technological advances constantly being made in the field go toward a safer and more accurate treatment for every patient.

However, as with any other surgical procedure, there is a possibility that something will go wrong with a laser eye treatment. Fortunately, the risks are very low these days and most patients come out of surgery successfully and with no side effects.

Possible Risks Of Laser Eye Surgery

Here’s a list of known complications that can arise from laser eye surgery:

Risk Description Cause Occurrence Remedy
Ptosis The upper lid of the treated eyelid droops Pressure applied to the eye during the procedure Very rare It usually resolves itself after two weeks. In the rare instance that it persists, plastic surgery might be necessary.
Partial loss of vision Part of the patient’s vision is lost permanently; this means that the patient can’t read a few lines of the eye chart Errors in reshaping the cornea or damage sustained by the eye from the laser; allergy to anaesthetic eye drops 1 in 10000 None
Dry Eyes Tear Production is hindered, causing eyes to be dry, red and itchy, as well as vulnerable to infection Surface nerves have been cut (and will take six months to regrow) Quite Common This is normally a temporary condition; usually treat with lubricant eye drops to produce artificial tears
Over or under-correction of vision Patient does not achieve 20/20 vision or the problem gets reversed – long-sightedness changes to short-sightedness, vice versa For under-correction, too little of the cornea was cut; for over-correction, too much was removed More common in PRK and LASEK patients: 1-3% with low to moderate shortsightedness Enhancement re-treatment
Corneal Haze Cloudy vision The cornea is still healing Mild degree of haze is very common Disappears over time but patient might be given eye drops to speed up healing
Infection The cornea get infected after surgery The cornea becomes vulnerable to infection when the flap is created Very rare Steroid eye drops or antibiotics
Visual abberrations These are symptoms of decreased night or low light vision. The patient sees halos or starbursts around light sources at night Increased light scatter and irregularites in the eye after LASIK surgery, particularly among patients 5-10 in 1000 patients
Presbyopia A condition where someone has difficulty reading without glasses, normally occurring towards middle age. Short-sighted people normally will not need glasses when reading, but if a young short-sighted person has had laser eye surgery, he or she might need to wear reading glasses later in life A patient with myopia (short-sightedness) will have normal vision after laser eye surgery. Presbyopia is a natural consequence of this ‘normalisation’ of vision. Common among many myopic patients Reading glass; lens replacement surgery is a more drastic action. There’s also monovision, a type of laser eye surgery where the dominant eye is treated for distance vision and the non-dominant eye for near vision
Sub-Conjunctival haemorrage The patient has a red eye, indicating bleeding When the corenal flap is created the pressure from the suction causes tiney blood vessels to break. The blood flows into the space between the sclera (the white part of the eye) and the conjunctiva (the clear lining of the sclera). This causes the patient to have a red eye. Rare Resolves itself after a few weeks
Astigmatism Some parts of the patient’s vision are out of focus The wrong amount of corneal tissue was removed and the reshaping was thus not done properly Rare Corrective laser surgery if the patient’s cornea is thick enough; if not the patient will have to wear glasses or contact lenses
Debris in the eye Little spots appear in the patients vision Debris was trapped under the corneal flap during surgery Very rare This condition resolves itself spontaneously; in a few cases, further surgery may be required
Corneal ecstasia The cornea bulges and thins out, which could lead to blindness The cornea has become too weak after too much tissue was removed Less than -.2% Rigid contact lenses may be prescribed; in extreme cases, corneal transplant might be considered.

The long list above might put you off the idea of undergoing laser eye surgery, but do keep in mind that most of these complications are rare. It is estimated that among the top clinics in the UK, only 1 out of 1000 laser eye surgeries will result in any kind of complication.

You should also bear in mind that reputable clinics extensively screen every patient for the likelihood of complications, especially serious ones such as corneal ectasia.

How To Lower The Risk Of Complications

Here are three steps to actively take to ensure you have a successful laser eye treatment:

  1. Find a reputable clinic with a high success rate and a low complication rate
  2. Choose a surgeon with plenty of laser treatment experience and the proper credentials
  3. Research as much as you can on your prescription and the procedure to correct it, as well as the risks associated with it

Feel free to bombard your surgeon with questions if you need to. Always remember that you shouldn’t commit to any procedure unless you’re completely sure that you will come out of it with the results that you want.

Another thing you should do is to make sure that the clinic you go to has an aftercare guarantee. If you do end up with some sort of complication, an aftercare guarantee will give you free enhancement procedures. Some clinics are now offering lifetime aftercare. Make sure to ask yours about this.