Most of your patients will tell you that they know a fair amount about LASIK surgery. They’ve researched it, their friends or family members have had it done, they hear ads on the radio for it, etc.
But not everyone who is interested in laser vision correction is a good candidate for LASIK surgery. In some cases, patients may be best served by having PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) instead. Although still widely performed, most people have never even heard of PRK surgery.
So, to help, we’ve come up with a few tips for discussing PRK with your patients:
I always let my patients know that the overall outcome of PRK is exactly the same as LASIK surgery. It is the same laser that is used to correct the vision; therefore, the results of surgery should be the same regardless of the method used. Studies have shown that there is no significant difference between patient satisfaction rates, visual acuity, or enhancement rates in patients who have PRK surgery vs. those who have undergone LASIK.
Make sure to set your patients expectations early on when it comes to the time it takes to heal from PRK surgery. Let them know that vision is going to be fuzzy following the procedure, and that it will likely get worse before it slowly gets better. I even go into further detail with my patients, so they understand why the vision is blurred and why it takes a long time to heal. This usually reduces the patient’s anxiety over the healing process since they know exactly what is going on. In a time when people expect immediate results, your patients will have to understand that they will need to be patient with their visual acuity improvement. I often tell patients who undergo LASIK surgery that their vision should be good in a day and great in a week, and those who have PRK surgery that their vision should be good in a week and great in a month.
Be open and honest with your patients about pain following PRK surgery. Tell them that they are going to be uncomfortable and that it is normal and expected for their eyes to feel painful. The amount of irritation will, of course, vary from person to person, but tearing, stinging, burning, foreign body sensation, etc. are all completely normal. It isn’t until the epithelial defects heal (usually around day 4) that the eyes will start feeling much better. Letting them know this beforehand will help them better plan for what they can and cannot do post-operatively, and will also save you from middle-of-the-night phone calls from worried patients.
Because of the differences in the healing process and patient expectations with PRK, it is important for your patients to fully understand the procedure and post-operative processes well before their surgery. Talking to patients about PRK will require a little more time, a little more education, and these patients typically need a little more hand holding through the entire process. However, as long as you’ve done a good job of explaining everything, things should go well, and they will thank you for being honest!