Published: May 4, 2009
Updated: Oct. 5, 2011
Learn how to prepare for vision correction surgery, what to expect during the procedure, and steps to take to ensure that your eyes heal properly.
Do not wear hard or gas-permeable contact lenses for four to eight weeks prior to laser correction. If you wear routine soft contact lenses, stop wearing them at least a week prior to surgery. Toric (astigmatism correcting) soft contact lenses should be discontinued at least three weeks prior to surgery.
Observing these measures allow your eye to return to its normal shape prior to surgery and decreases the potential for you to introduce bacteria to the cornea region by inserting and removing contact contact lenses.
To ensure that you get optimal results from your vision correction surgery, follow these instructions on the day of your surgery:
You will have time to complete necessary paperwork and ask your surgeon any additional questions you may have before your surgery.
While the treatment itself takes only minutes, please allow two hours for the procedure so we can meticulously review your data, confirm additional measurements, and prepare your treatment parameters. It also takes several minutes for the relaxation medication to take effect.
Once we bring you into the laser room, you will immediately notice that it is cold and dry. At Duke, we purposely control the temperature and the humidity in the laser room so that we can promise the same precise and predictable procedure regardless of the weather outside. For this reason, we have a dedicated laser room and have never used the rented, mobile lasers in an uncontrolled environment used by many facilities.
You will be seated in a reclining chair and asked to stare at a "fixation" light in the center of the laser. You will be given drops to numb your eyes and also reduce the risk of postoperative inflammation or infection.
A gentle eyelid holder will help you avoid blinking during the brief procedure. While the flap is created, you will feel pressure but no pain. Your vision may go dark for just a few seconds. A second laser will be used for less than a minute to recontour your cornea. The flap is returned to its normal position, where it quickly adheres.
The procedure for both eyes is followed by an examination at the slit lamp. The entire procedure takes less than half an hour, but you are not discharged until we confirm that everything is going as expected.
Once your procedure is completed and we confirm that your corneal flap (LASIK) or contact lens (PRK) is in place, you will be discharged. We may ask you to relax in the waiting room for a few additional minutes if we have any concerns -- particularly if the relaxation medication has caused a drop in blood pressure.
Once you are feeling fine, we will discharge you to a responsible person who can provide your transportation. Although your vision may already be remarkably improved, you should not drive until you experience further healing and ensure that the relaxation medication is fully out of your system.
After your procedure, it is best to go home and take a nap in order to rest your eyes. Avoid excessive use of your eyes, including reading, watching television, going to the movies, using a computer, and reading emails on your Blackberry. We recommend that whenever you sleep or nap in the first five days after surgery that you wear protective shields or goggles (your preference) to minimize the risk of injury while your flap is healing.
Most LASIK patients can drive an automobile and return to work the next day. You may experience eye fatigue and a sensitivity to sunlight during these first few days. Wearing sunglasses while outside in bright lights is very helpful. Eye fatigue is most noticeable while using the computer and doing activities that tend to cause you to reduce your blink frequency.
Wait a week before you wear eye makeup, rub your eyes, exercise strenuously, swim, use a hot tub or whirlpool, garden, or work in dusty environments. Even after a week, be extra careful applying mascara and eyelid liner that could directly injure the flap.
Surface ablation (ASA, PRK, LASEK) patients typically recover over several days and should avoid driving a car until vision recovers, usually around three days after surgery. The biggest difference between LASIK and surface ablation patients is a slower recovery and a longer use of topical medications for patients undergoing surface ablation.
This article is only a brief synopsis of the eye procedures available at Duke for the treatment of astigmatism, keratoconus, ectasia, cataracts, corneal swelling, and decomposition. At Duke, LASIK is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach, and 40 percent of our patients are better candidates for another procedure or no surgery at all.
It is important to realize that the doctors at Duke consider you an appropriate candidate for surgery only after full evaluation of several physical parameters of the eye as well as a full review of your individual goals and expectations. Each procedure is evaluated in the context of all available options, including the option of doing nothing and continuing with your current method using spectacles or contact lenses to correct your vision.
We carefully weigh the risks with the anticipated benefits of each individual procedure over the lifetime of your eye, not merely the short term.
The Duke difference is our unmatched dedication to deliver quality, experience, and a long-term commitment to bring about the best possible outcome in vision correction. At Duke, there are no shortcuts, cutting corners, or reducing your visit to a number.
We recognize that you place as much importance on your vision as we place on ours. We never take this for granted and want you to know that we consider it a great privilege to serve and care for you.
Our commitment to you continues throughout your surgery, your recovery, and even after your recovery. We want you to feel that Duke is worthy of your trust and we desire to care for you and your family members now and for years to come.
Learn more about LASIK and refractive surgery: