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.

What happens during the photorefractive keratectomy procedure?

Typically the patient lies on his/her back. A small lid speculum is used to hold the eyelids open. Once the eye is numbed with anesthetic drops, the surgeon removes the outer layer (epithelium) of the cornea either mechanically (with a tiny brush or a sweeping tool) or with laser. Once the epithelium is removed, laser is applied to the surface of the cornea to precisely ablate (remove) a thin layer of corneal tissue based on the amount of correction desired. A clicking or tapping sound might be heard as the laser is fired. Once the laser ablation is complete, a contact lens is usually placed. This “bandage” contact lens is usually removed once the epithelium has healed, typically a few days later (about 3 to 5 days).

What follow-up care is needed after a photorefractive keratectomy?

At the completion of your procedure, you will need someone to do the driving for you. You can expect to be very light sensitive, so be sure to have sunglasses with you.

You will be instructed to use prescription medicated eye drops afterwards. The drops are very important for healing well. They serve to control inflammation and prevent infection, as well as to minimize discomfort.

Close monitoring of the healing process is also very important. Be sure to keep all scheduled follow-up appointments. The number and frequency of follow-up visits will depend on how quickly the eye heals. It may take from about several weeks to 3 months to reach your best corrected vision (stable refraction).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/23/2015

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