I had LASIK eye surgery last Friday, and I thought it would be good to take a minute and write down some information about my experience. I definitely liked reading other people’s posts around the web when I was contemplating the surgery, so it seems to me that paying that courtesy forward would be the right thing to do.
I first asked my optometrist, Dr. Stephanie Chan at Cupertino Family Eye Care, about LASIK about a year ago (February 2011). I’d had a completely stable prescription since I moved to California more than seven years prior, and I had heard that prescription stability was one of the indicators for being a good LASIK candidate. She gave me a pamphlet from TLC Laser Eye Centers with some information about the surgery and with some details about the local associate center, Furlong Vision Correction. I read the paperwork and didn’t really get around to doing anything about it for months.
Fast forward to later in 2011, and open-enrollment season for my benefits programs at Apple. I had heard that it was possible to use a flexible spending account to pay for the surgery with pre-tax dollars, so I decided to schedule a consultation with Furlong Vision Correction to find out more about how the whole process worked. I went in, talked with a patient consultant, had some measurements of my eyeballs taken, and met Dr. Furlong. Overall it was a very positive experience, and they helped me figure out how all this FSA stuff works. Dr. Furlong seemed very positive about my candidacy – I have slightly thicker than normal corneas, which is good, and I had pretty much ‘middle-of-the-road’ characteristics with respect to the amount of correction that would be necessary. My prescription before the surgery was -4.00/-4.50 or so with a diopter or so of astigmatism to boot. I decided to sign up for surgery and was booked for January 27, 2011. I went back to the office and signed up for the maximum available contribution ($5000) to my FSA plan for 2012. The total cost quoted to me for the surgery and all pre- and post-op care was $5300 after a discount for being covered by VSP insurance. I signed up for the most expensive option – custom wavefront-guided bladeless/all-laser LASIK, also known as IntraLASIK. Supposedly healing times are improved with this all-laser method, but I’ve read conflicting things about that online, and I have nothing to compare it to personally.
I had two pre-op appointments – one with my regular optometrist, Dr. Chan, and another at Dr. Furlong’s office. The appointment with Dr. Chan was just a regular fully-dilated eye exam, which confirmed the stability of my prescription and that I was a good candidate for the surgery. The other pre-op at Dr. Furlong’s office was to measure my corneal thickness again, double-check my candidacy, and during this appointment they also scanned my eyes for the custom wavefront surgery. I was also given a couple of prescriptions for eyedrops to fill before surgery, so that they’d be ready to go when I got home after the operation. One prescription was for some steroid eyedrops to speed healing, and the other for antibiotics. I had no problems getting them filled at my local pharmacy.
A week later it was surgery day. I was pretty apprehensive (who wouldn’t be, getting their eyes operated on). In particular I was scared of some of the potential long term side effects of the surgery. I had read a bunch of horror stories on the internet – I’m sure you can find some without looking too hard – but I managed to calm myself down before heading in to Dr. Furlong’s office bright & early for the surgery. I paid using my FSA spending card and paid the extra balance of $300 with a plain old-fashioned credit card. While I was signing the informed-consent forms and making the payments, I was offered an optional Ativan and readily took it. Better living through chemistry, right?
After the paperwork was all taken care of, I went back into another room to wait for my turn to get zapped. When I was called to get prepped up, I went into the pre-op room. They gave me an eyeball-shaped stress ball to squeeze as necessary during the surgery, put in some eyedrops, and cleaned up my whole eye area with some kind of antiseptic stuff. Then it was waiting again until it was my turn to get operated on. While waiting in the pre-op room, it was possible to hear the previous patient’s surgery taking place. The excimer laser is pretty loud – there’s a lot of clicking and clacking going on while it’s in use.
Then it was my turn. I was called into the operating room and met up with Dr. Furlong. He looked at my eyes in a microscope and put a couple of dots on them with something that looked like a Sharpie. Then I moved over to the operating chair and lay down. Step one during the operation was to cut the flaps using the femtosecond laser. I got a bunch more eyedrops, and a suction ring was put over the first eye. There was quite a bit of pressure on my eye which made me go blind in that eye. Then five or ten seconds later, the ring was removed, and the same procedure was done on the other eye. While each eye was being operated on, the other was taped shut.
After cutting the flaps, I was rotated over to the excimer laser machine for the actual tissue removal process. After attaching some kind of contraption to hold my eyelids open, Dr. Furlong lifted the flap on the first eye, which made my vision go very blurry. I was told to stare at a blinking orange light, though as blurry as my vision was at this point, it was less of a light than my entire field of vision. I just tried to stay focused for the 20-30 seconds it took to do the ablation. There was a definite odor of barbecued eyeball during the process. After all that was complete, the flap was replaced along with the addition of copious amounts of eyedrops. Over to the other eye, and I was finished. Dr. Furlong took me back over to the microscope and inspected both of my eyes. He seemed happy with the results and sent me off to the post-op room.
The post-op room was dim – I sat in a chair and waited while the assistant went to grab Mickey. When they came back, the assistant went over the post-op care instructions – keep my eyes closed for as much of the next 6-8 hours as possible, wear the eye shields for the rest of the day and night for the next week, take the antibiotic and steroid eyedrops four times a day for the next week, and artificial tears every hour while awake for the next week and as needed after that. Pretty straightforward. They taped on the eye shields, gave me some unattractive sunglasses, and then Mickey drove me home.
Once we got home, I went straight to bed. I spent as much of the rest of the day as possible asleep or with my eyes closed. I just opened them up to eat, walk up & down the stairs, go to the bathroom, and to put in eyedrops. At the post-op, I’d also been given some numbing drops to use “as needed”, but I had zero pain or discomfort, so I didn’t need to use any.
The next morning (Saturday), I woke up, took off the eyeshields, and everything seemed great. I showered carefully, making sure not to get soap or water in my eyes, and then drove myself over to my post-op checkup at Dr. Furlong’s office. They measured me a bit, declared me to have 20/15 vision, did a quick inspection via microscope, said everything looked to be healing well, and that was it.
I had my one-week followup appointment yesterday morning with Dr. Chan. She inspected my eyes and did a quick refractive check to see if I had any residual prescription. It turns out I’m a bit farsighted now – +0.25 in my right eye and +0.50 in my left. Definitely nothing my eye muscles can’t easily compensate for. She also confirmed that I’m 20/15 in both eyes.
So far I’m extremely happy with how everything turned out. The biggest thing I was worried about was dry eyes, and I have had absolutely no feelings of dry eyes at all. I’ve been using the artificial tears as recommended, but I definitely don’t feel any problems. There are some red spots on my eyes from the suction/pressure used to cut the flaps, sort of like eyeball hickeys, but they don’t affect me at all and are supposed to go away in a few weeks. I also see some halos around lights at night, but it’s definitely not debilitating, and I’ve driven at night several times without problems. For the first few days I was feeling eye strain. I’m guessing that’s due to my eyes not being used to their new optimal focal distance, and the feelings of strain have been steadily decreasing over the week. Today I feel pretty good. The halos and redness in my eyes are supposed to go away, and those are the only down sides so far. I think I got pretty lucky about the healing process – I’m feeling great with no signs of any of the itchiness, dryness, or other side effects I was told to expect.
I have another follow-up appointment with Dr. Chan scheduled for early in March – hopefully everything continues well until then!
I’m sure I’ve left out something important here – if you have any questions or comments please post them. I’ll try to update this post if I think of anything.