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Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is an elective procedure. Ophthalmologists may recommend PRK surgery for individuals who have vision issues caused by refractive errors. The doctor uses a laser to mold the cornea’s shape so that the eye can bend (refract) light correctly.
This type of refractive surgery is comparable to LASIK surgery. During photorefractive keratectomy, the surgeon uses an excimer laser to reshape the cornea’s surface. There is no creation of a corneal flap, which is a step in LASIK surgery.
Individuals who have nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), and astigmatism (imperfect curvature of the cornea or lens) could benefit from this eye surgery. With photorefractive keratectomy, individuals may not need eyeglasses or contact lenses as much as before surgery. In the best of cases, individuals may not even need eyeglasses or contact lenses at all.
If individuals are considering vision correction surgery, then they should expect the following:
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The first step in the PRK procedure is to consult your doctor. They will explain the procedure and give you instructions to prepare for your laser vision correction. Here is a general outline of what to expect after your initial consultation:
During your preoperative appointment, your eye doctor will measure your refractive error and pupils with a vision test. They will then use a machine to map your cornea. This information will be used to program the excimer laser during your procedure.
Individuals who wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses should discontinue use for at least three weeks before the screening visit. Individuals should stop using all other kinds of contact lenses at least three days before the assessment.
Your doctor will give you further instructions to prepare for surgery. They may ask you to stop using contact lenses and antihistamines for several days before the surgery.
Some doctors may prescribe antibiotic and steroid eyedrops for you to start using before surgery. You will use these for several days after surgery as well. They may also prescribe eye drops for dry eye symptoms.
It's recommended that you begin cleaning the area around your eyes thoroughly about three days before surgery. Do this by:
Repeat this procedure twice a day. This will help to unclog out the oil glands around your eyes and remove debris around the eyelid margins.
You should expect to be at the doctor's office for a few hours. Wear comfortable clothing and eat a light meal beforehand. Take any usual prescriptions unless your doctor instructed you not to.
Don't wear makeup or any accessories that could interfere with your doctor's ability to position your head. (For example: earrings, scarves, hair clips).
You won't be able to drive after PRK, so make sure to prearrange transportation from the clinic. Ask your doctor if you should bring eye drops or any other medication with you.
The procedure only takes about 5 to 10 minutes per eye. This surgery doesn't require sedation or general anesthesia.
PRK surgery is not painful because local anesthetic is used. However, you may experience some discomfort in the hours after surgery once the anesthetic eye drops wear off.
Here's what to expect after surgery:
Individuals who undergo PRK surgery may experience a little discomfort within the first few days of surgery. The majority of surgical patients report having sensitivity to light.
However, other side effects can occur, such as:
To minimize the possibility of laser surgery side effects, PRK may be more suitable for individuals with thin corneas or with a corneal surface irregularity. PRK does not disrupt as much corneal tissue as LASIK does which means it may be safer for these individuals.
Success rates for PRK are high. Almost 90 percent of individuals who underwent photorefractive keratectomy experienced 20/20 vision within a year of surgery without additional eyewear support.
On average, individuals can expect to spend between $1,750 and $5,000 for PRK surgery. For example, at UCLA’s Laser Refractive Center, price estimates for PRK surgery total $2,500 per eye.
PRK surgery will vary in prices depending on multiple factors, including:
Photorefractive keratectomy is not considered a necessary medical procedure. This means that most insurance companies will not provide full coverage of the elective procedure.
However, it is best to speak with the insurer to see if a fraction of the screening examination or other expenses can be covered.
If individuals interested in this vision correction procedure cannot pay the full amount upfront, other options are available, including:
Both laser eye surgery will share similar costs. PRK surgery may cost a bit more than the LASIK procedure due to more post-op follow-up care visits within the first month.
In the United States, the average price of LASIK was approximately $4,500 for both eyes. However, it is important to mention that insurance coverage may offer a 40 to 50% discount on traditional LASIK surgery.
Yet, price is only one point to consider in vision correction. Individuals should consult their eye doctor about all options and, if possible, the procedure that provides the most benefits to their eye health.
Boyd, Kierstan. “What Is Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK)?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 16 July 2018, www.aao.org/eye-health/treatments/photorefractive-keratectomy-prk.
“Cost of Services.” Cost of Services - UCLA Laser Refractive Center - Los Angeles, CA, www.uclahealth.org/lrc/cost-of-services.
“Photorefractive Eye Surgery (PRK): Laser Eye Surgery.” Cleveland Clinic, www.my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/8596-photorefractive-keratectomy-prk-eye-surgery.