Photo-Refractive Keratectomy (PRK) is the original laser vision correction technique that employed the excimer laser to reshape the cornea. The excimer laser is the cool beam laser used in LASIK and other refractive surgeries. Although LASIK is newer and more popular, PRK is still the best choice for certain patients. Wavefront-guided PRK uses the same technology as custom LASIK to map your eyes and guide the laser for a more precise procedure with optimal visual outcomes.
PRK Vision Correction Procedure
General anesthesia is not used during PRK. You will be awake for the procedure but your eyes will be numbed with special drops. The surface layer of your cornea, called the epithelium, is removed and the excimer laser is used to make changes to the middle layer of your cornea, called the stroma.
The work cannot be done on the outer layer of the cornea because the cells are constantly replaced there, like the outer layer of your skin, so the changes would not hold. Also like your skin, the surface layer of the cornea grows back and heals quickly. After surgery, you will wear a special contact lens as a bandage for about five days.
PRK is similar to LASEK and epi-LASIK in that the epithelium is removed to give the laser access to the area where the work is performed. There is no flap, as is created in LASIK. In LASEK and epi-LASIK, the epithelial layer is saved and replaced. In PRK, it is discarded. When LASEK was developed, the belief was that saving and replacing the epithelium would facilitate faster healing, but some surgeons have found that the cells grow back faster when the old epithelium is discarded.
Why Choose PRK?
PRK is typically chosen as an alternative refractive procedure for patients who are not good candidates for LASIK for reasons such as:
- Thin corneas
- Large pupils
- Career or lifestyle that makes creation of corneal flap undesirable
PRK used to be the only option for people with certain careers or who intended to go into certain careers including military pilots, Navy SEALs, and NASA astronauts because of concerns about the LASIK flap becoming dislodged. It was also preferred for anyone in professions where a blow to the face is likely, such as police, firefighters, and athletes. Now, bladeless LASIK is accepted because the flap heals better and is less likely to become dislodged.
PRK Recovery and Results
PRK has a longer recovery time than LASIK. It can be one to three weeks before you can drive and three to six months before your vision is clear and stable. PRK recovery is more painful, as well. There is no risk of flap complications in PRK recovery, however.
Once your vision has stabilized, the results of PRK should be comparable to LASIK.
Find out if PRK laser vision correction is right for you. Search our experienced ophthalmologist in your area.