An epidemic of eye pain and poor vision has swept around the world during the last thirty years, but ophthalmologists have done nothing to stop it. The reason? The epidemic was caused by LASIK eye surgeons, who have suppressed the truth about this dangerous cosmetic procedure. The patients have no idea LASIK can blind them and kill them.
The goal of LASIK is purely cosmetic – to eliminate the need for distance glasses. LASIK is the eye equivalent of breast augmentation, a tummy tuck, a face lift, or a nose job. It is heavily advertised as a “cure” for refractive errors of the eye – nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
Eye doctors are supposed to heal sick eyes. LASIK surgeons begin with healthy eyes, and make them into sick eyes. There is nothing wrong with eyes that need glasses for distance. They see well before the procedure. They ought to see equally well after the procedure, but LASIK does not make eyes see better, it makes them see worse. Patients are not told this nasty fact.
LASIK should either be banned, or the patients should be accurately informed about the risks they are taking.
The word “LASIK” is the acronym for Laser-Assisted in SItu Keratomileusis (kerato means “cornea”, mileusis means “to reshape”, in ancient Greek). During LASIK, surgeons use an ultraviolet excimer laser to shave the cornea into a new shape. The excimer laser gives off incredibly short bursts of ultraviolet light – 1 to 8 nanoseconds. It works by photodisruption, like the YAG laser. Since each excimer pulse packs one tenth the energy of the YAG, the excimer is much more precise. It can shave the surface of the cornea with dazzling exactness.
Stunning technology. Disastrous results.
Because LASIK is cosmetic, it is not covered by insurance. Medicare.com states, “LASIK is not considered medically necessary; therefore, it is not covered.” LASIK.com states, “Most insurance companies don’t cover LASIK…it is nearly always considered an elective or cosmetic surgery.” This means LASIK surgery is not subject to the price limits set by insurance companies. Read, more money for LASIK surgeons.
I am one of the handful of ophthalmologists who is willing to criticize LASIK publicly. When I talk to ophthalmologists in private, they readily admit how dangerous LASIK is, but they refuse to criticize this multibillion-dollar industry. They know there will be serious push back.
I am in my office. It is 2010. I am interviewing a new patient. Four months ago, he had LASIK surgery performed on both eyes on the same day by one of my fellow ophthalmologists. Since then, he has suffered constant, severe, incurable pain in his eyes. His vision is distorted, and he sees glare and halos around everything. He is in tears. He is disabled from his job – from all jobs.
I ask him if he is contemplating suicide. He says yes. I take him seriously. At least thirty LASIK patients have committed suicide. He says he feels betrayed. I agree. I refer him to a psychiatrist.
A few days later, my cell phone rings. A LASIK activist in England wants to check a few facts for an upcoming article, which will quote me. He knows all about the dangers of LASIK. His life was ruined by LASIK-induced blindness and pain. He has dedicated his life to banning LASIK.
On June 12, 2018, an article exposing the dangers of LASIK was published in the New York Times. It got lots of attention – over one million page views (one hundred thousand is considered impressive). A retired NYT editor and I made this article happen. I guided the writer, Roni Caryn Rabin, through the laborious process of making sure each statement was backed up by peer-reviewed science. She quoted me in the article. Two days later I appeared on “Good Morning America.”
Today, most people have forgotten about it.
The assault from my colleagues was swift, personal and lacking in scientific evidence. One ophthalmologist accused me of promoting “fake news,” and said I am “no scientist.” Several colleagues pointedly ignored me at a professional meeting. One told me I wasn’t qualified to criticize LASIK because I am a retina specialist. A few filed letters of complaint against me.
Notably, however, no one addressed the facts: LASIK inevitably causes complications, many mild, some so severe they can lead to suicide.
I am not the only ophthalmologist who has been attacked for criticizing LASIK. A world-famous South African cornea specialist was blackballed and excluded from ophthalmology meetings after he testified in a LASIK malpractice case. Other ophthalmologists who testified for the patient in LASIK malpractice cases have been threatened by their department chairs, and reported to the American Academy of Ophthalmology for bogus ethics violations.
If people knew what happens to eyes during LASIK, nobody would have the procedure. LASIK surgeons begin by flattening the eye with a suction ring, squeezing this delicate structure in a vise. The pressure inside the eye shoots up to sixty, i.e., three times normal. (Normal is between eight and twenty-two.) Just imagine how much damage this causes.
The retina is stretched, so it becomes more fragile and more likely to detach. The rate of retinal detachment in normal eyes is .006%, but after LASIK it shoots up to between 0.25% and 0.36% (see www.eyeworld.org/article.php?sid=4164). In other words, the risk of a retinal detachment in LASIK patients is TWO THOUSAND TIMES greater than normal.
The lens is damaged and squashed, so LASIK patients will develop a cataract and need surgery FIFTEEN YEARS earlier than people who have not had LASIK.
Next, the surgeons slice a flap off the cornea with a knife or a femtosecond laser, as if they were cutting a slice off a loaf of bread – again, major trauma to a vital part of the eye. Then they shave tissue from the cornea with the excimer laser. Finally, they put the flap back on the cornea, and assume it will seal itself back again. It never does.
A similar procedure, Photo Refractive Keratectomy, or PRK, also uses the excimer laser to reshape the cornea, but instead of making a flap the surgeons scrape off the top layer of the cornea. PRK was the first procedure approved by the FDA to re-shape the cornea. Like LASIK, PRK is a purely cosmetic procedure
PRK is more painful than LASIK at first, but PRK patients have one advantage over LASIK patients – they do not have a flap, so they do not get flap complications. Aside from this one advantage, PRK patients have the same complications as LASIK patients.
I was one of the first people in the world to hear about LASIK. I was in the Harkness Eye Clinic in the 1980s when Dr. Steve Trokel burst into my room. He shoved a still-warm piece of paper into my hands, plopped down in a chair, and began to talk. I had never seen him so excited.
I immediately recognized an electron microscope photo of a cornea. Sliced into it was a perfect rectangle, sides straight as a ruler. I could not believe my eyes. Steve told me this rectangle was created by an excimer laser. This laser could re-shape the cornea, and eliminate the need for distance glasses.
I was impressed. This laser could carve the cornea, molecule by molecule? The thought crossed my mind I might have this procedure myself, to eliminate my nearsightedness.
When Steve ran out of my room to show his photograph to the ophthalmologist in the next room, I had second thoughts. What he said was far too simple. The more I thought about what he was planning to do, the more doubts I had.
One of the flaws in Steve’s new technique was that it would – obviously – make the cornea thinner. Thin corneas are weak – more likely to be injured and/or develop other serious problems. Also, the cornea has no blood supply, and therefore it would be notoriously slow to heal.
It would also create a large corneal wound, which would heal by forming scar tissue. After the procedure, the patients would be forced to look at the world through frosted glass, instead of clear glass. One of my LASIK patient described his problem by saying: “I feel as if I am looking through Vaseline.”
The worst problem, I thought, was how much pain this procedure would cause. The cornea has more nerve endings than any other part of the body. Any injury to the cornea – for example, a corneal abrasion – is excruciating. Anybody who has accidentally scratched a cornea knows all about this.
I decided Steve’s idea was great in theory, but there was no question in my mind it would never catch on, because the side effects would be too horrific.
I was so wrong. I vastly underestimated the desire of the public to get rid of their glasses. Remember – LASIK is cosmetic surgery. There is a huge market for any cosmetic surgery people believe will make them more attractive.
My negative opinion of LASIK increased steadily, year by year, patient by patient, scientific article by scientific article. I saw many happy LASIK patients, but I saw many whose eyes, and lives, had been ruined. All the problems I foresaw when Steve told me about LASIK turned out to be true. More arose I did not anticipate. Go to Google and type in “LASIK complications” and hundreds of pages will come up. I soon realized I could not live with myself unless I started to tell the truth about LASIK
Eye surgeons traditionally let the first eye they operate on heal for at least two weeks before they operate on the second eye. LASIK surgeons don’t follow this universally accepted rule. They know vision is always abnormal after LASIK, so they insist patients have both eyes done on the same day. Some even offer discounts for the second eye. They know when one-eye LASIK patients compare the operated eye to the unoperated eye, they will be acutely aware the operated eye doesn’t see well because of vision distortions, glare, etc. They will refuse to schedule the second eye.
A patient who had LASIK in only one eye came to see me one day, saying: “I cannot see with my LASIK eye. You have to give me glasses.” I tested her operated eye the way LASIK surgeons test their patients, using high contrast letters. It saw 20/20 without any correction. She was one of the lucky 33% of LASIK patients who do not need distance glasses.
LASIK surgeons are clever. They always measure visual acuity using high contrast black letters on a white background. That isn’t the way we see in the real world. Objects are not all pitch black with straight crisp sides standing out against a clear white background. Our eyes need to distinguish between multiple subtle gradations of color, brightness and form in the real world.
The LASIK surgeons would call her a complete success, but she did not think her operation was a success. Like all LASIK patients, she had visual distortions, ghost images, and decreased contrast sensitivity, which do not show up in the usual office eye test.
“I’m sorry to tell you glasses will not help.” I told her. She stormed out of my office, saying she would get glasses somewhere else.
I began to speak out about LASIK complications in the 1990s. I was largely ignored until one day in 1994, when Dan Dorfman telephoned me out of the blue and asked my opinion of LASIK. Dorfman was an infamous “stock picker” for CNBC. Stock market traders followed him closely. His opinion about a stock always caused it to move sharply up or down.
I told Dorfman LASIK is “experimental and unpredictable” with “worrisome complications”, including “over and under correction, fluctuating vision, poor vision at night, and pain”. Bloomberg reported my comments, and the value of the excimer laser companies stock plunged tens of millions of dollars. The LASIK surgeons retaliated by claiming I was “naïve” and did not know what I was talking about.
I am glad Dorfman helped to reveal the truth, but I do not believe his motives were pure. I suspect he – and/or his partners – were shorting LASIK stock.
The problems of LASIK have been known for years, but despite my best efforts the public remains clueless about its dangers. Exhibit A: David Brooks wrote a column in the New York Times on January 13, 2017 that stated “LASIK eye surgery produces more patient satisfaction than any other surgery.” (He was using LASIK as an example of how free markets work to lower the price of surgery.) He was dead wrong.
On May 18, 2008, Dr. Jon LaPook, the CBS medical correspondent, interviewed me about LASIK. I told him it could cause chronic pain, disability, and death by suicide, and nobody should have it. On November 24, 2013, I discussed the disastrous complications of LASIK on the Oz show. Both programs are readily available on You Tube, and on my website, yet they have failed to discourage people from having LASIK.
Patients are gullible. They believe the glowing ads of the LASIK surgeons. They trust doctors will never do harm. They do not do their homework. They don’t want to hear bad news. And – most of all – other ophthalmologists refuse to speak out.
LASIK surgeons define “success” as being able to see 20/40 using high contrast blackletters on a white background without glasses. They use this criterion to claim the “success” rate of LASIK is 99%. They never ask the LASIK patients themselves. By their definition, many miserable patients are “successes.” The unhappy patients I have seen would not agree with this definition of “success”, even if they can see 20/40 in the LASIK surgeons’ offices.
As of this writing, roughly 17 million people in the US, and 30 million around the world, have had LASIK. The exact number of complications is not known, because the LASIK surgeons refuse to report them.
The LASIK surgeons claim with improved techniques the complication rate has gone way down. That is hogwash. Also, if they refuse to report complications, how do they know the complication rate has gone down?
LASIK has destroyed careers. It has ended marriages. One LASIK victim recently had the inside of one of her eyes removed to get rid of unbearable post LASIK pain. (The outer shell of her eye was retained for cosmetic purposes.) LASIK has driven at least thirty victims to suicide. The names of many of these victims are known. The names of others have not been disclosed, at the request of the families.
The evidence for the dangers of LASIK is hiding in plain sight. The PROWL study, published in JAMA Ophthalmology in 2016, evaluated two groups of people before, and up to six months after, they had LASIK. The study consisted of asking patients to fill out a web-based survey about their vision before LASIK, and several times afterward.
The PROWL study showed that, overall, the ability to see small letters on the eye chart without glasses did improve after LASIK. However, the study also showed that a huge percentage of patients developed new visual symptoms after LASIK. Forty-five percent of the subjects who had reported no visual symptoms without their glasses prior to surgery reported new symptoms three months after their surgery – including double images, glare, halos and starbursts.
There was a major flaw in this study: one of the pre-op questions was: “Do you have glare and starbursts WITHOUT your glasses?” Almost all nearsighted patients – especially if they have astigmatism – will have glare, double vision, and starbursts WITHOUT their glasses. These symptoms disappear when they put their glasses on.
Two thirds of the patients reported some visual symptoms before surgery, and these patients were excluded from the tally of those who developed “new symptoms” after surgery. Result: the study statistics are artificially lower than they should be. It makes me wonder if the researchers had a bias in favor of making LASIK appear safer than it is.
If LASIK causes so many distressing side effects, why is it so popular? The answer: deceptive advertising. One ad from the LASIK Vision Institute states: “Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to struggle to see the alarm clock in the morning? Wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t have to take out your contacts at night to go to bed? Wouldn’t it be easier if you could participate in fitness activities without worrying about breaking your glasses? It’s just a better way to live your life.”
These ads make patients believe they can throw away their glasses after LASIK, and they will have perfect vision. Neither of these statements is true.
The FDA website on LASIK correctly states: “Only a certain percent of patients will achieve 20/20 vision without glasses or contacts.” Only a third of LASIK patients are able to stop wearing glasses. Two thirds must continue to use glasses or contact lenses, either some or all of the time, for either distance, or reading, or both, according to a 2009 Consumer Reports survey of seven hundred and ninety-three LASIK patients.
Even LASIK patients who see 20/20 without glasses do not have “perfect” vision. The FDA website states: “Some patients lose lines of vision that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.” It would be more accurate if the website said: “All patients lose vision after LASIK.” All LASIK patients lose – permanently – the ability to distinguish between subtle shades of grey – called “contrast sensitivity” – because of corneal scar tissue.
Before LASIK, all corneas have a single smooth curve – a perfect dome. After LASIK, the “dome” is converted into a “plateau”. Now the re-shaped cornea has two different curves – an artificially flattened curve in the center, and the original steeper curve in the periphery. The re-shaped central cornea focuses light directly on the retina. The untouched peripheral cornea focuses light either in front of the retina, or behind the retina.
In bright light, the pupil constricts, so a LASIK patient looks only through the central section of the cornea. As a result, the vision is not badly distorted. In dim light, the pupil dilates, and the peripheral cornea comes into play. The result is that all LASIK patients see double or triple in dim light, with glare, starbursts and halos.
All LASIK patients are a danger to themselves and others in dim light. They take a risk whenever they drive a car or plane at night. LASIK patients should have licenses that restrict them to day driving/flying. I would not want to fly in a plane, or drive in a bus or a train, with pilot/driver who has had LASIK. Nobody would.
The irony is airline pilots must have uncorrected vision of 20/20 to qualify for their job. If they do not qualify, they often have LASIK. After LASIK, they have a 33% chance of seeing 20/20 when tested with high contrast letters, but their actual vision is worse than before.
Many LASIK patients who must perform their jobs in dim light have become permanently disabled. One of my patients had to quit her job as a theatre critic, because she could not see the actors after the lights went down. Another patient – an anesthesiologist – could no longer read charts in a dim operating room. Another woman – a banker – can no longer work on the computer. She now lives on disability. As a bonus, her husband divorced her.
A bad LASIK outcome cannot be corrected. There is no way to get rid of glare and halos around lights at night. There is no way to restore contrast sensitivity. There is no way to eliminate post-LASIK pain. One surgeon I know who once did LASIK told me no longer performs the procedure because – and I quote – “If something goes wrong, you can’t do anything about it”.
I have not mentioned flap complications.
The flap never heals completely after it is put back onto the cornea, so bacteria can easily creep under it and invade the cornea – even years after surgery. All LASIK patients face a life-long increased risk of cornea infection.
The LASIK flap is attached so lightly that even mild trauma – rubbing the eyes, being hit by a wave, contact sports – can dislocate it. When the flap comes off, the eye instantly loses vision. The dislocated flap must be replaced surgically as soon as possible. It is now much more likely to dislocate again.
I tell all LASIK patients they should wear eye protection during contact sports, and goggles while swimming. I am not the one who should be warning them. This should be the responsibility of the LASIK surgeons. LASIK patients with flap complications tell me their doctor never gave them any information about this.
Another post-LASIK complication that does not make it into most LASIK consent forms is vision instability. The cornea is not inert, like a sheet of plastic. It is a living structure that continues to grow and remodel throughout life. In many cases, LASIK eyes sometimes go right back to being nearsighted again. Other LASIK eyes go in the opposite direction, and become progressively more far sighted.
The most feared LASIK complication is corneal ectasia. If patients have thin corneas to begin with, their corneas often start to bulge out relentlessly after LASIK. This bulging is called “ectasia”. It is like a hernia of the cornea. (In rare instances, ectasia is caused by a hereditary eye disease, keratoconus.) Again, most consent forms don’t mention, or explain, this devastating complication.
Ectasia is a nasty problem. As the bulging becomes worse and worse, the eye becomes more and more nearsighted, and it develops marked irregular astigmatism. Glasses and soft contact lenses cannot correct vision destroyed by ectasia.
What is the true incidence of ectasia after LASIK? Until 2016 this number was not known. Remember, LASIK surgeons do not allow their data about LASIK complications to be made public. A LASIK surgeon once said at a corneal meeting he never reported ectasia, because he was afraid of lawsuit. By February 2015, only 100 cases of ectasia had been reported in the literature.
The world got an accurate picture of the true incidence of post-LASIK ectasia when a company called Avedro went public in 2016. Avedro is a medical device and pharmaceutical company that invented a treatment that supposedly stiffens the cornea, and halts the progression of ectasia. During this procedure, riboflavin is applied to the cornea, and the cornea is then irradiated for 30 minutes with ultraviolet light.
Avedro stated in a press release that at least 160,000 patients in the U.S. have developed “corneal ectasia following refractive surgery” [i.e., LASIK and PRK]. If you do the numbers, this means almost one percent of LASIK patients develop ectasia. How did Avedro get the number 160,000? There is only one possible source – the LASIK surgeons.
I knew LASIK would inevitably cause pain, but I had no idea how bad this pain would be. The LASIK surgeons like to call post-LASIK pain “dry eye” – but these eyes do not show any signs of dryness. What they have is far worse. They have neuropathic pain.
Tiny nerves run through the cornea, keeping it safe and healthy. After these nerves get cut during LASIK, they never grow back normally. They fire constantly, causing unrelenting, unbearable, untreatable pain. This same phenomenon occurs when a patient loses a limb. In this case it is called: “phantom pain.” All LASIK patients develop at least some neuropathic pain.
Chronic neuropathic corneal pain results in severe foreign body sensation, burning, and a feeling of dryness. Some LASIK patients put wetting drops in their eyes several times an hour, trying to alleviate the pain. Yes, I mean every hour. Walk into any drug store and you will see shelves of artificial tears labelled “For LASIK dryness.” The irony is that these artificial tear drops do not help. The eye is not dry. It has developed chronic pain syndrome.
Post-LASIK corneal neuropathic pain has been treated in Europe successfully with drugs like Amitriptyline. LASIK surgeons in the US have not done any studies on the treatment of corneal neuropathic pain, because they do not want to admit the problem exists.
Some US ophthalmologists have described how corneal neuropathic pain following LASIK can be treated. They include Perry Rosenthal (now, sadly, deceased), Pedram Hamrah at Tufts in Boston, Anat Galor at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami, and John Cason at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. Have the LASIK surgeons listened? Of course not.
The first man to warn about the dangers of LASIK was Dr. Morris Waxler. Morris was the FDA’s chief scientist in charge of clinical research trials. He was head of the committee that approved LASIK in 1998. When he retired from the FDA, he began to see more and more LASIK patients who had serious complications. He realized something was not right.
Morris took another look at the original data the LASIK surgeons gave the FDA when they were seeking approval for LASIK. Then he reviewed every scientific paper on LASIK complications in the world literature. (He was able to look at medical research papers not readily available to the general public.) He realized, to his horror, the FDA-required clinical trials had only looked at how well patients could read the eye chart. These trials had ignored serious side effects, including persistent night vision problems and chronic dry eye. They failed to detect these permanent long-term complications because they had small numbers of patients and short-term follow-up.
The LASIK surgeons had assured Morris these problems were “temporary side effects.” Morris realized they were in fact permanent and devastating. The actual data showed twelve months after LASIK, 60% of patients had fluctuating vision in dim light, 50% suffered from gritty eyes, 40% had light sensitivity, 20% had fluctuating vision, and 15-20% had problems driving at night because of glare and halos.
Morris knew I was willing to speak out about LASIK complications. He invited me to go with him to Washington, D. C. to testify before the FDA on September 22nd, 2010. I accepted.
As Morris and I rode up the gleaming escalator of the shiny new main building of the FDA complex in Silver Springs, Maryland, I thought it would be a slam dunk to convince the FDA to ban LASIK. It was clear LASIK was a massive public health problem. This dazzling palace must have dazzling minds inside. Once they understood, they would surely take action.
Morris told the FDA committee about the misleading statistics that tricked him into recommending LASIK, and why he had changed his mind. I told them how the cornea behaves when it is wounded, and why the side effects are unavoidable and disastrous. I also told them about patients whose lives had been ruined by this procedure. ABC News ran a special about Morris’s testimony that evening.
Three months after we testified, on January 6, 2011, Morris filed a citizen’s petition with the FDA asking it to ban LASIK. His petition is thirty-two pages long. Every statement is based on well-documented scientific research. It includes ten figures, six tables, and one hundred and one references from peer-reviewed scientific literature. That is good science. It is readily available online – simply Google Morris Waxler FDA LASIK.
The Waxler petition asked the FDA to withdraw approval for all LASIK devices, and issue a Public Health Advisory with a voluntary recall of LASIK devices in an effort to stop the epidemic of permanent eye injury caused by LASIK. It states “LASIK eyes never completely heal, are permanently weakened, vulnerable to trauma and inflammation, develop neuropathic dry eyes, have pathology that progresses annually, are vulnerable to blinding corneal bulging, have compromised night vision, have unstable vision corrections that regress, and require eye care that otherwise would not be needed.”
Morris concluded by saying LASIK risks and long-term consequences outweigh the benefit of reduced dependence on corrective lenses.
How did the FDA respond? A drop in the bucket. It recommended LASIK patients obtain a copy of their medical record, including the consent form they signed. Their website now states visual quality at night is permanently reduced after LASIK, even in patients with 20/20 or better vision in bright light. It also warns visual outcomes of LASIK decline over time.
The FDA did not ban LASIK.
Morris and I refused to give up. Eight years later, on September 13, 2018, Morris and I went back again to testify before the FDA. This time we brought along two patients whose life had been ruined by LASIK, and Doctor Nancy Burleson, whose only son committed suicide after LASIK.
I asked the committee members if they wanted their legacy to be blindness, pain and death. I handed everybody in the room a consent form I had written that accurately explains, in clear language a layman can understand, the risks of LASIK. I included the percent chance for each risk. I told them they must either ban LASIK, or require all LASIK surgeons give all their prospective patients this consent form, at least two weeks before surgery.
Here it is:
LASIK IS AN ELECTIVE COSMETIC PROCEDURE
- After you have LASIK, there is a 100% chance you will no longer be able to distinguish between subtle shades of grey.
- There is only a thirty percent chance you will be able to throw away your glasses, according to a 2009 Consumer Reports survey.
- You have a 50% of developing “dry eye” after LASIK. Your eyes will feel as if sand is pasted inside your lids, and they will burn as if they have hot pepper sauce in them. The chance this pain will be with you for the rest of your life is close to 100%. “Dry eye” is a misnomer. The “dryness” is actually nerve pain, caused by destruction of corneal nerves during LASIK.
- You have a 50% chance of developing glare, a 40% chance of becoming sensitive to light, a 30% chance of blurred vision, and a 10% chance of difficulty driving at night because of halos around lights and ghost images. These problems are permanent, not temporary. You may be unable to function in dim light. You may have to give up driving at night and going to theatre and movies. If your job requires functioning in dim light, you may be permanently disabled.
- The LASIK flap never heals completely, so you have a lifetime risk of flap dislocation after minor trauma, and infection underneath the flap.
- 20% of LASIK eyes do not stay stable. They either go back to being nearsighted, or become farsighted, or fluctuate from one to the other. Some eyes continue to fluctuate in vision for as long as twenty-five years.
- Even if you see better at distance, you will have other problems you did not have before LASIK. For example, people over forty will have to wear reading glasses.
- LASIK thins and weakens your cornea, which put it at risk of ectasia, which means the cornea bulges out, like a tire bulging at a weak spot. As it sags outwards, it gets steeper and steeper, and more and more warped. This causes irregular astigmatism that cannot be corrected by glasses or soft contact lenses. Your vision will become more and more blurred and distorted as ectasia progresses. The only way to treat ectasia is to use hard contact lenses, or get a corneal transplant. Ectasia can develop twenty-five years after apparently successful LASIK.
- LASIK stretches and weakens your retina. The risk of retinal detachment is two thousand times greater after LASIK.
- Seven years after LASIK, fifty-five percent of patients are unhappy with their vision.
Would you sign this consent form?
The LASIK consent forms do mention complications, but they do not give percentages, and they are not written in language patients can understand. If the risks were explained to each patient like this, with the percentages of each risk, nobody in their right mind would have this procedure.
There are thousands of MedWatch complaints on file with the FDA about LASIK injuries. Three quarters of them involve dry eyes (i.e. neuropathic pain), poor vision at night, and decreased visual acuity. There are over 1,200 signatures on a petition to stop LASIK. (See http://www.thepetitionsite.com.). Despite all this evidence, the FDA refuses to revoke its approval of LASIK.
While the FDA sits on its hands, people continue to go blind and commit suicide after LASIK.
I have been involved in a half dozen recent malpractice cases in Canada. The patients developed incurable chronic neuropathic pain after LASIK. They are disabled for life. They had no idea of the risks they were running. The consent form they signed did not even mention CNP as a risk, although this is a common and well-described complication of LASIK surgery.
Here is an accurate picture of how the LASIK surgeons treated these patients:
Every surgeon is required to personally explain the complications, risks, alternate treatments and benefits prior to surgery, and to personally witness the patient’s signature on the consent form. These patients were not given the opportunity to review the actual consent form before their surgery They were not allowed to bring it home, or to consult others about the information.
The only pre-operative preparation on their visit to the LASIK center was a “LASIK Information Booklet” that was handed to them by a technician. They did not see an ophthalmologist. The Booklet contained exclusively positive information about LASIK. The words “corneal neuralgia” were never mentioned. They were never told how serious and disabling CNP can be, or that it could last for the rest of their life.
Twenty minutes before the operation, a technician, not a surgeon, gave them a consent form. It was a dozen pages long. It mentioned six complications that had not been mentioned in the Booklet. They included “pain…which may be temporary or permanent.” It also mentioned the procedure had “a risk of partial or total blindness”, again without explanation or specifics. The patient had to attest “I have been advised that I may find some of these side effects difficult to tolerate.”
The consent process was a sham. A technician, not the surgeon, witnessed the patients sign the consent. They did not see their surgeon until a few minutes before the procedure. They were not given the opportunity to ask him any meaningful questions.
At my medical school graduation in 1977, our speaker was Dr. Lowell Bellin, New York City’s chief health officer and self-described “medical cop”. I was incredulous when he said some doctors do not put their patients first. Now I know LASIK surgeons do not put their patients first. I have become a medical cop myself.
Damaged LASIK patients burst into tears in my office, sobbing they trusted their doctor, their doctor betrayed them, never warned them this could happen to them. I would like to drag every LASIK surgeon into my office, one by one, chain them to the furniture, and force them to listen to these suffering human beings until they promise they will never perform LASIK again.
The increasing number of malpractice suits against LASIK surgeons shows LASIK is giving ophthalmology a bad name. Ophthalmologists should save sight, not destroy it. Speak up, fellow ophthalmologists, and share your reservations. The world is watching. Bottom line: the less eye surgery, the better. No eye surgery should be done without is a pressing need. If an operation is necessary to save sight – retinal detachment surgery, for example – we accept the risk. Getting rid of glasses is not a pressing need.
I get nothing from telling the truth about LASIK except the criticism of my peers, but I could not live with myself if I did not do it.
The only guaranteed way to stop LASIK is to require all LASIK surgeons to have the procedure themselves before they are allowed to perform it on others.