It seems like more risks are coming to light for LASIK surgery. Is this overblown or has new information actually come to light?

No. There is very little (if any) new findings in the way of risks/downsides to LASIK that has not been known for at least 10-15 years. LASIK remains one of the safest and most successful surgical procedures ever. This is still true when performed on an excellent candidate by an experienced surgeon using the most up-to-date technology.

The occasional stories that surface in the news are not necessarily untrue. But they need to be considered in the context of something as elective (optional) as "Refractive Surgery" -surgical procedures on the human eye to correct visual problems traditionally treated with glasses and/or contact lenses. After all, the results had better be pretty close to equivalent (or better)! [LASIK is just the best known of several such surgical options.]

I believe these "scare" stories spring from 2 sources:

1) The need for the media to find and put the spotlight on any story that suggests "Hey! Everything you thought you knew about XYZ is wrong!" In Journalism School this is the "Man bites dog" definition of what makes news. Former Eagles drummer Don Henley even wrote a song about this approach by the TV news: "First you build "em up; then you tear "em down."

2) The incursion and eventual domination of the LASIK market by corporate interests. Unconstrained by the ethical traditions and standards of Medicine, clever and often misleading advertising and "come on's" became increasingly common -anything to get a potential patient in the door. Conservative and prudent standards were abandoned in borderline, and even clearly unsuitable, cases to drive profits and growth. They knew many of the known problems such patients would suffer would not surface for years. They also knew they would be able to slough off liability onto naive, contract employee Ophthalmologists who trusted the system they took orders from.

LASIK done right is extremely safe and successful. But you need to have it done by somebody who truly cares about your best interests, not corporate profits.

_Written by J. Trevor Woodhams, M.D. - Chief of Surgery, Woodhams Eye Clinic

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