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IACH Home > Patient Services > EENT > Introduction to LASIK and PRK
Introduction to LASIK and PRK
There are two types of Laser eye surgery that will eliminate the need for corrective lenses (i.e. glasses or contacts). These two techniques (LASIK and PRK) have pro's and con's specific to the surgery, which are briefly discussed below. Your surgeon will discuss the pro's and con's of each surgery in more depth at your office visit.

LASIK stands for Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis. In this procedure, the doctor uses a micro cutting instrument to create a flap in the outermost layer of the cornea. The flap is folded back, allowing a computer-guided laser to re-shape the surface of the cornea. This re-shaping is called photoablation. The flap is then replaced on the cornea. Most patients recover quickly from this procedure, often seeing much better without glasses within a few days.

PRK stands for Photorefractive Keratectomy. The procedure re-shapes the surface of the cornea in the same way as LASIK - with photoablation. However, a flap is not created. Instead, the surgeon removes the outer skin of the cornea. The laser re-shapes the corneal surface, and the skin cells are then allowed to grow back to cover the cornea once again. PRK patients take longer to recover and are usually functional after the fourth postoperative day. Vision gradually improves further over several weeks.

The surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor with special training in diseases and surgery of the eye. Optometrists are specialists in the treatment of eye and vision disorders. Optometrists actively manage the care of Soldiers before and after laser surgery, but do not perform the surgery.

After refractive surgery, a strict regimen of medications is prescribed, as well as a physical activity profile to minimize the chance of injury to the healing eye. Convalescent leave is given for two days following LASIK, and seven days following PRK. The powerful pain control regimen provided to PRK patients allows most Soldiers to experience only minimal post-operative pain; however this varies, and occasionally patients experience significant discomfort for several days following surgery. LASIK usually causes mild ocular irritation postoperatively for a day or two. Driving vision is often achieved by day 6 after either type of surgery.

By eliminating the need for corrective glasses in a field environment, refractive surgery leaves the Soldier vulnerable to projectile objects that could injure the naked eye. For this reason, use of approved protective eyewear is essential following refractive surgery, and is provided by our clinic to those Soldiers who have not received it from their own units.

Surgery, Follow-Up, And Deployment
It is crucial for Soldiers and authorizing commanders to be aware of the requirements surrounding refractive surgery in order to plan for training and deployment.

Plan for the following visits:
  • In order to be register for surgery we need a signed Commanderís letter and eyeglass prescription or pair of glasses that is at least one year old.
  • Pre-operative measurements and complete eye exam by the optometrist
  • Surgery
  • Post-op day five visit (mandatory)
  • Post-op month one visit (mandatory)
  • Post-op visits at month two (if needed)
Soldiers are on a limited profile for 21 days post-operatively to minimize injury to the healing eyes. This limits PT, wear of the protective mask, and active training in dirty/dusty/field conditions.

In general, most Soldiers will require 30-60 days of follow up prior to deployment. Occasionally, Soldiers with LOW refractive error and a small treatment may be released after about 30 days of follow up. If requested, we are able to inform the Soldier which category they will likely fall into during the pre-operative exam. The follow up period is necessary to ensure refractive stability and prevent the deployment of a Soldier who may still require a small amount of spectacle correction or medical treatment.

While most Soldiers meet these healing time estimates, Commanders must understand that there are a small number of soldiers who will require more intense or longer follow-up for a variety of reasons.

Resources
Additional information about refractive surgery is available directly from the clinic, including an information pamphlet and the surgical consent form, which reviews in detail the various risks and benefits of both LASIK and PRK. There is ample opportunity to ask questions of the technician, optometrist, and ophthalmologist during the evaluation process.

Contacts
Phone Numbers
Clinic (785) 239-7875
Fax (785) 239-7410
Hours
Mon-Fri 0730-1630

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This Web site provides an information regarding Irwin Army Community Hospital and its services. Irwin Army community Hospital is a U.S. Army Medical Department hospital. This website is intended for interested members of the public, news media and Army Medical Department beneficiaries.

Irwin Army Community Hospital
600 Caisson Hill Road, Fort Riley, Kansas 66442
(785) 239-7000