How Much Does PRK Surgery Cost?
On average, you can expect to spend between $1,750 and $3,000 per eye for PRK surgery.
PRK costs vary based on geographical region and the eye surgeon’s expertise. For example:
- UCLA’s Laser Refractive Center estimates PRK surgery cost at $2,500 per eye
- The Kraff Eye Institute In Chicago ranges between $1,800 and $2,800 per eye
What Factors Affect PRK Surgery Cost?
PRK surgery will vary in price depending on multiple factors, including:
Eye Surgeon’s Expertise and Experience
An eye surgeon who’s helped thousands of patients achieve clear vision with laser refractive surgery will probably have higher rates. While reputation isn’t everything, it’s important that you feel comfortable with your surgeon’s skill level.
Location of the Eye Surgery Center
The cost of living in the area where your eye surgeon’s office is located is one of the biggest factors affecting the procedure's price. Eye surgeries in major cities cost more than those in rural areas.
You may pay more if your eye surgeon needs to rent the surgical facility and laser technology they need to perform PRK.
If an ophthalmology practice owns its building and equipment, its overhead costs are less. They may pass those savings on to you.
PRK is considered an elective surgery. For this reason, most vision health insurance plans won’t cover it. However, they may pay for some costs, including presurgical exams.
If you have vision insurance, check with your provider to find out what they’ll cover.
Special Discounts and Payment Plans
Discounted PRK surgeries are not common. However, some ophthalmologists offer free initial exams to determine if you’re a good candidate for the procedure.
These free exams are usually geared toward determining your eligibility for laser refractive surgery. They’re not a substitute for your routine eye health exam.
Some eye surgeons offer payment plans for PRK. For example, you may be able to pay a percentage on the day of surgery, then make low monthly payments for the next year.
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What Additional Costs May Come With PRK Surgery?
There are other costs to be aware of when considering PRK surgery. These costs vary based on personal factors, including your eye health and the success of your procedure.
Screening Eye Exam
Before laser eye surgery, you need an eye exam to ensure you’re a good candidate. During this exam, your doctor will review your medical history and measure your eyes.
After PRK surgery, you’ll probably need prescription eye drops until your eyes heal. You’ll also need to return to your eye doctor for follow-up visits to ensure a successful recovery.
PRK surgery has a minor risk for complications, such as an eye infection, that can increase the cost of follow-up care.
In some cases, laser eye surgery doesn’t result in clear vision. The procedure might overcorrect or undercorrect the refractive error in your eye. When this happens, a second surgery may be necessary.
Is PRK Surgery Worth the Cost?
PRK surgery may sound pricey, but it offers permanent vision correction. That means you won’t have to continue buying glasses, contact lenses, and solution. In 2022, the estimated lifetime cost of myopia treatment with glasses and contact lenses is $17,0205.
Although PRK is considered permanent, it won’t prevent your eyes from aging. You may still require treatment for presbyopia, which is age-related farsightedness.
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Does Insurance Cover PRK Surgery?
Photorefractive keratectomy is not considered a necessary medical procedure. This means that most insurance companies will not provide full coverage of PRK.
However, it is best to speak with your vision insurance provider to see if they will cover the screening examination or other expenses.
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Other Ways to Pay for PRK Surgery
If you cannot pay the full amount upfront, other options are available, including:
Most surgery clinics offer payment plans. This will break the price into manageable amounts you gradually pay back.
Financing can be a good choice for anyone with a good credit score. However, the loan request may include fixed interests.
Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account
You can use pre-tax money deposited in an HSA or FSA account to pay for PRK surgery.
Some plans may differ in coverage and be able to pay a portion of the costs.
PRK vs. LASIK Eye Surgery Cost
Both laser eye surgeries have similar costs. PRK surgery may cost more than a 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.
Yet, price is only one point to consider in vision correction. You should consult your eye doctor about all options and determine the procedure that most benefits your eye health.
Pros of PRK vs. LASIK
The major difference between PRK and LASIK is that PRK doesn’t involve cutting a flap in your corneal tissue. This approach leads to certain advantages of PRK, including:
- Less damage to the cornea means faster recovery of nerve tissue
- Minimal risk of postsurgical dry eye
- Reduced risk of eye trauma or scarring caused by a corneal flap incision
- Patients with thin corneas are eligible
Cons of PRK vs. LASIK
There are some downsides to PRK, including:
- Slightly higher risk of eye infection than with LASIK
- Clear vision can take up to 10 days instead of 2 days with LASIK
- Full recovery can take 3 to 6 months
How Does PRK Work?
Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is an elective surgery for vision issues caused by refractive errors. The doctor uses a laser to mold the cornea’s shape so that the eye can correctly bend (refract) light.
This type of refractive surgery is comparable to LASIK surgery. During PRK, the surgeon uses an excimer laser to reshape the cornea’s surface. There is no corneal flap creation, which is a step in LASIK surgery.
PRK treats the following refractive errors:
Is PRK Permanent?
After PRK, you may not need eyeglasses or contact lenses as much as before surgery. In the best cases, you may not even need eyeglasses or contact lenses.
Success rates for PRK are high. Almost 90 percent of patients who undergo PRK surgery experience 20/20 vision (without glasses or contacts) within one year.
The first step in the PRK procedure is to consult your doctor. They will explain the procedure and instructions to prepare for your laser vision correction.
Here is a general outline of what to expect after your initial consultation:
Before the Surgery
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.
If you wear rigid gas-permeable contact lenses, you should stop using them for at least three weeks before the screening visit.
You 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.
Day of Surgery
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 instructs 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, and hair clips).
You won't be able to drive after PRK, so prearrange transportation from the clinic. Ask your doctor if you should bring eye drops or any other medication.
The procedure only takes about 5 to 10 minutes per eye. This surgery doesn't require sedation or general anesthesia.
- First, the surgeon will give you a local anesthetic to numb each eye
- Then they will place an eyelid holder on each eye to keep them open
- Your surgeon uses an alcohol solution, laser, or surgical tool to remove the outer layer of your cornea (epithelium)
- They use an excimer laser to reshape your cornea
- Once the procedure is finished, the surgeon will put clean bandage contact lenses in your eyes to protect your cornea
PRK surgery is not painful because a local anesthetic is used. You may experience some discomfort in the hours after surgery once the anesthetic eye drops wear off. Here's what to expect after surgery:
- You'll take your pre-arranged transportation home
- You should take several days off of work for recovery
- Your eyes may be extra sensitive to light. Your doctor will probably provide extra dark shades for you to wear for the day
- Do not plan to look at a screen or work on your computer for the rest of the day
- You may experience fatigue after surgery; plan on relaxing or taking a nap afterward
- Don't expect to drive for at least 2 or 3 days after surgery, possibly longer
- Use all of your eyedrops exactly as prescribed
- You will likely have an antibiotic prescription to prevent infection and steroid drops for inflammation; these will typically last a month
- If you experience significant discomfort or pain, contact your doctor; they will likely recommend a painkiller
- Attend all follow-up appointments; if any unusual vision change or pain occurs, contact your surgeon immediately
Side Effects of PRK Surgery
Patients may experience minor discomfort within the first few days of surgery. The majority of surgical patients report having sensitivity to light.
Other side effects can occur, such as:
- Glare or halos around images
- Corneal haze (cloudy appearance in the cornea)
- Slower surface healing process
- Mild corneal irregularity
- Dry eyes
- Blurry vision that requires glasses, contacts, or a touch-up procedure
PRK may be more suitable for people with thin corneas or corneal surface irregularity. PRK does not disrupt as much corneal tissue as LASIK does, which may be safer for these people.
- The average cost of PRK surgery is between $1,750 and $3,000 per eye
- PRK surgery cost varies between different eye surgeons and geographical locations
- Like LASIK, PRK is an elective procedure, which means most health insurance plans don’t cover it
- Your health insurance or vision plan might cover part of the cost of PRK surgery
- Payment plans, FSAs, and HSAs can help make PRK surgery more affordable
- Because PRK offers permanent vision correction, it’s more cost-effective than wearing glasses and contacts over a lifetime
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