Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) Eye Surgery

  • Medical Author:
    Patricia S. Bainter, MD

    Dr. Bainter is a board-certified ophthalmologist. She received her BA from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and her MD from the University of Colorado in Denver, CO. She completed an internal medicine internship at St. Joseph Hospital in Denver, CO, followed by an ophthalmology residency and a cornea and external disease fellowship, both at the University of Colorado. She became board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology in 1998 and recertified in 2008. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Dr. Bainter practices general ophthalmology including cataract surgery and management of corneal and anterior segment diseases. She has volunteered in eye clinics in the Dominican Republic and Bosnia. She currently practices at One to One Eye Care in San Diego, CA.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Photorefractive Keratectomy and Other Eye Surgeries

What Is Laser Vision Surgery?

Excimer laser refractive surgery, commonly known as laser vision correction, has been around for the past 20 years. This procedure is performed to reduce or eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses.

What is photorefractive keratectomy (PRK)?

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is a procedure used to reduce the need for corrective eyewear by reshaping the cornea of the eye with a laser, thereby changing the way the eye focuses light. An excimer laser is used to ablate (remove) a thin layer of the cornea, changing the cornea's refractive (focusing) power.

LASIK is a similar procedure except a flap is created within the cornea with either a laser or a blade. There are pros and cons to weigh in choosing between LASIK and photorefractive keratectomy. In terms of cost, photorefractive keratectomy is usually less expensive than LASIK. Post operative discomfort is typically less of an issue with LASIK. Ultimately, the choice comes down to which procedure will produce the most reliable outcome, and this is largely determined by factors such as corneal health and degree of refractive error.

What vision problems are treated with photorefractive keratectomy?

Photorefractive keratectomy can treat a variety of refractive errors including myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism. It can also be used to correct other irregularities of refraction in some individuals.

Who is a good candidate for photorefractive keratectomy?

The ideal candidate is someone whose corneal tissue is well suited for the procedure. Several criteria must be met first. For example, corneal thickness is important. Larger corrections require more tissue ablation. The surgeon will calculate if there will be sufficient residual corneal tissue for the ablation to be performed safely.

Ideally the eyes should also be free of underlying diseases or conditions that might affect the cornea's stability, clarity, or ability to heal well. The eye doctor reviews the medical history and performs a complete eye examination to look for any such condition which might affect the outcome.

Age is another factor. If a candidate's eyes are still growing (for example, in childhood and in the teen years) the refractive error may not have stabilized. Undergoing photorefractive keratectomy too soon may result in an undercorrection.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/23/2015

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