Worries are eased thanks to America’s top guns
ADECISION by NASA to approve a revolutionary new laser eye surgery technique will give Australians considering eye surgery added peace of mind’’, says ophthalmologist and expert in laser corneal surgery, Dr Michael Lawless.
Dr Lawless, who is medical director of the Vision Group and a consultant in ophthalmology to the Australian Defence Force, says the new technique, IntraLASIK, has had its safety and reliability exhaustively and independently tested.
Safety is a main concern for people contemplating laser vision correction,’’ says Dr Lawless. ‘‘ When it comes to their eyes, people want to be reassured the procedure offers the highest level of safety and accuracy.’’
IntraLASIK provides added safety and precision because it now uses a laser compared with a handheld microkeratome blade to create the flap.
The most severe sight- threatening complications in LASIK are generally related to use of the microkeratome in the first step and the use of an all- laser method reduces this risk.
Dr Lawless says key benefits of the blade- free technology over earlier methods of refractive eye surgery include: better vision, less discomfort and faster recovery time, which have led to a strong patient preference for IntraLASIK.
LASIK can help most people achieve 20/ 20 vision, with minimal discomfort in about 10 minutes.
The ultra- fast laser allows the surgeon to tailor a corneal flap of precise size, shape and depth in individuals to maximise improvements in vision, says Dr Lawless.
‘‘ By cutting that first layer very thin, you have more cornea to work with,’’ he adds.
The corneal flap is then locked back into place after vision is corrected to allow for rapid healing. Most patients can see well enough to drive a car a day or two after surgery.
NASA waited until happy with some of the studies which showed vision was better than they could get with contact lenses - and that they could withstand high G- forces,’’ Dr Lawless says.
They wanted to make sure the cornea wasn’t going to change under high G- forces. It was incredibly useful to get good, solid data.
‘‘ They put people in the military who had had the surgery through batteries of tests that tested their visual function under different conditions. For example, shooting at dusk, shooting at altitude, shooting straight after coming out of the water.
‘‘ The Australian military followed the work very closely and they encouraged people in certain jobs - bomb disposal Navy clearance divers, and anyone in the SAS - to have this done.
Dr Lawless says the new technique has slashed the chances of complications.
He suggests the chance of a visual complication which is serious is one in 20,000. Prior to interLASIK it was one in 5000.
NASA’s landmark decision to allow the use of blade- free LASIK technology in astronauts reaffirms the safety and precision of IntraLASIK.
For many people, the security of knowing the blade- free technique has been used in nearly two million procedures, including more than 25,000 in Australia, is invaluable.’’
Dr Lawless says that blade- free LASIK surgery is expected to reach new heights as more and more Australians realise the advanced technology can help them improve their quality of life and realise their full potential.
Clinical studies show when bladefree IntraLASIK is used instead of a microkeratome, more patients achieve 20/ 20 vision or better and report better quality of vision overall in low light such as night or dusk.
Laser vision correction has helped many people shed their glasses and enhance performance in the most demanding of workplaces and on the sports field.
Although laser vision correction has been around for about a decade, concerns about the harsh aviation environment previously prevented its use in astronauts, according to Dr Richard Wolfe, the Medical Director of VISTAeyes.
Now clinical trials, led by the US Defence Department, on specialist military personnel have demonstrated the precision and uncompromising standards of IntraLASIK. Some not- able results include:
In a study comparing different methods to create the LASIK flap, 370 Navy personnel underwent a LASIK procedure with either the IntraLasik FS laser or microkeratome blade. One week after surgery, more than 76 per cent of IntraLasik FS laser patients achieved an uncorrected visual acuity of at least 20/ 16 ( better than 20/ 20) compared with 58 per cent of microkeratome patients. ● An evaluation of 785 aviators showed 89 per cent of US Navy pilots rated their ability to land on an aircraft carrier as moderately to significantly better after laser vision correction. ● A separate study found that more than 90 per cent of marksmen had improvement in marksmanship skills after laser vision correction.
‘‘ As you can imagine, the safety and quality of vision is extremely important for top gun pilots and Navy SEALs, who operate under extreme conditions including high altitude, dry air, wind blasts, G- forces and the depths of the ocean,’’ says Dr Wolfe, who is also an ophthalmic adviser to the ADF and Vice- president of the Australasian Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons.
Given the benefits, it’s no surprise that more and more people who don’t train to fly into orbit or follow Von Clausewitz’s dictum of engaging in politics by other means are joining the explorers and warriors who have turned to laser vision correction.
The right stuff: NASA tests have shown the safety of the new IntraLASIK surgery technique