If you are researching laser vision correction procedures like LASIK, you are likely to run into terms such as LASIK enhancement, touch-up, or retreatment – these are all labels for a second laser procedure intended to address any residual visual error following LASIK. There are a couple of situations when one might be recommended.
- Between 1 and 5 percent of the time, the outcomes of an initial LASIK procedure don’t quite achieve the patient’s vision goals. Generally speaking, they see much better than they did before the procedure, but perhaps didn’t quite get to the 20/20 visual result they were looking for after the healing process. While the laser application during a LASIK procedure is very accurate, every eye heals and responds slightly differently to the laser sculpting. It is important to be diligent about the aftercare following LASIK and to keep your ophthalmologist updated on your progress. If, after the healing process is complete, your vision isn’t as clear as you and your eye doctor expected, you should be evaluated for a LASIK enhancement to see if a second procedure can help you achieve your vision goals. In general, vision is not stable after LASIK for 3 months, and for this reason, enhancements are typically performed after this time period.
- Sometimes, after several years, a patient experiences a change in their nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism. These patients don’t go back to their original prescription, but they don’t see as clearly as they did in the early years after their LASIK procedure. This isn’t to say that the LASIK treatment “wore off” – because LASIK is a permanent correction of the vision at the time of the procedure. However, LASIK doesn’t prevent the eye from changing, either from age or other conditions. Just like you would not expect the same pair of glasses to provide optimal vision for ten years, sometimes vision changes after LASIK and it has nothing to do with the surgery. Typically, these visual changes are due to the eye changing shape with age…just like the rest of your body. These physical changes would have occurred regardless of a Lasik or any other procedure. It is estimated that for every year after LASIK, there is a 1 percent increase in the chance of needing retreatment.
What, Exactly, Is A LASIK Enhancement?
The short answer is – it is a lot like having LASIK. Many of the same considerations that went into deciding if the original LASIK procedure is recommended for you and your vision will go into determining if you are a candidate for a retreatment. The overall health of the eye and other factors will also be evaluated by your eye doctor before recommending a retreatment.
The procedure itself is very similar. Once again, numbing drops are used to make sure you are comfortable before the procedure begins. With a LASIK enhancement or retreatment, the first step of the LASIK procedure – the flap – is already in place. The surgeon uses a specialized instrument to gently lift the flap to expose the surface where the laser vision correction treatment takes place. Generally, an enhancement is a small correction – so it takes just a few seconds for the additional reshaping necessary.
The recovery from an enhancement is similar to LASIK and you will have instructions for drops and other medications to help keep you comfortable, reduce the risk of infection, and support healing. Much like LASIK, vision after an enhancement is improved within a very short period; most of the time immediate results are experienced with gradual improvement seen over the first few days.
Are Retreatments Included in the Price of LASIK?
When you have LASIK, your surgeon will discuss the potential for an enhancement – or retreatment – with you as part of the overall informed consent. As part of that discussion, you should ask your surgeon, if you should need a retreatment within the first year after your LASIK procedure if it would be performed without any additional charge. This is a common policy today, but pricing can vary from practice to practice. Be sure you understand all the fees associated with your LASIK procedure and follow-up care.
The Bottom Line on LASIK Enhancements
The majority of LASIK patients achieve their vision goals with LASIK: 90 percent get to 20/20 or better vision after the procedure. So, the likelihood you will want a LASIK enhancement is pretty small. However, being prepared with all of the possibilities when considering a procedure is a smart choice, and enhancement procedures are part of the LASIK experience.