Lasik Is Safe, But Mishaps Can Occur
Oct. 22, 2008 — Lasik can change the lives of people dependent on glasses or contact lenses. People who have lasik no longer have to search blindly for those glasses if they break or get misplaced. They don't need to go through the ritual of putting on contact lenses or suffer irritation once the contacts are in place. Furthermore, they don't have to spend money on contacts or glasses anymore.
For people in some professions such as soldiers and policemen, the procedure can mean the difference between life and death. After all, a criminal can break the glasses of a policeman who needs them, and then the policeman can't see the criminal as he runs away or continues to assault the officer.
Millions of people have elected to have lasik, and the majority of these patients praise it. I know people who have undergone lasik, and they have nothing but nice things to say about the procedure.
As I report in the October issue of Biophotonics International, a recent public hearing of the FDA included testimony from patients who weren't so happy. They described starbursts, halos and glare-among other problems. My research indicates that these patients are in the minority. However, the few patients who have problems seem to have little recourse in terms of fixing their eyesight.
My research turned up other problems as well. An analysis of previously published research suggested that more than 95 percent of patients are satisfied with lasik, and this study was published strategically before the hearing. It bears researching whether some unfavorable studies were left out of this analysis. And the patients pointed out that satisfaction rates don't necessarily mean complication rates. They don't. This information should be open, available and properly represented.
Currently, doctors can market lasik however they want to. The FDA mandates that pharmaceutical ads have information about procedural risks, but lasik ads typically don't mention complications that can occur. I believe that they should.
Although lasik doctors could inform patients about risks when the patients come in for a consultation, there is no way to ensure that the doctor fully informs the patient behind closed doors.
My research indicates that money probably influences some doctors to present an overly rosy picture of lasik. At an average charge of $2000 per eye, lasik doctors can make more than a million bucks in a year just by seeing one patient a day and treating both eyes.
The lasik industry assuredly wants to protect itself from malpractice lawyers as well. Not surprisingly, there was a lasik lawyer present at the hearing. Lawyers can and do use information about complications against the industry. So although the disgruntled patients at the hearing demanded comprehensive studies of depression and suicide in patients who have undergone botched lasik, don't expect any studies like that anytime soon.
All in all, I believe that all doctors want to do their best to help patients, lasik can change lives for the better and it works well in most cases. However, more ethical guidelines need to be implemented to protect the few patients that are maligned by the procedure, and caps need to be placed on malpractice awards in every state to facilitate open communication between doctors and patients.
- The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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