The world of laser corrective eye surgery is about to take another step forward. In the fall of 2016 the FDA approved the ReLEx SMILE (Refractive Lenticule Extraction, Small Incision Lenticule Extraction) technique for myopia (nearsightedness) using the Zeiss Visumax femtosecond laser. This marks the 3rd generation of laser corrective eye surgery.
First generation laser surgery was called PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) and is still in use today, comprising 10-20% of laser corrective eye surgery in the United States. In this technique the surface covering of the cornea (epithelium) is removed and the laser is applied directly to the surface of the cornea. This is a very safe technique, but requires longer healing. Patients wear a bandage contact lens for 5-6 days and nights and then go through a 3-4 week visual recovery. This technique is still preferred in cases of thin corneas, irregular corneas, and some higher prescriptions.
Second generation laser surgery is called LASIK (laser in situ keratomiluesis). This is the most common form of laser vision correction. It involves using 2 steps to correct vision. First, a cornea flap is made at the surface of the cornea using a laser (all laser LASIK, intraLASIK) or a microkeratome (razor blade). Second, the flap is rotated back and the second laser (excimer laser) is then used on the exposed under surface. Finally the flap is rotated back down into position. This allows for dramatic, rapid visual recovery.
SMILE is a novel technique where only 1 laser is required, the Zeiss Visumax. The femtosecond laser can create a very precise incision in the cornea. Based on the prescription of the patient the laser will create a lenticule (small cornea piece, much like a miniature contact lens) that will then be removed through a tunnel. Advantages include; not performed at the surface, allowing for a quick recovery and not performed under a flap. This potentially will reduce dry eye symptoms which can be seen with some LASIK patients. Those who may have not been LASIK or PRK candidates in the past could potentially benefit from this new technique.
Hoopes Vision will be the first practice in Utah to perform the SMILE technique. In preparation for this exciting surgical procedure the surgeons at Hoopes Vision have already performed hundreds of LASIK flap surgeries with the Zeiss Visumax. Hoopes Vision has used femtosecond laser technology for the past 14 years and performs more femtosecond laser surgery than all other Utah surgical practices.
We anticipate launch of the SMILE procedure in March or April of 2017. Please call our office at 801.568.0200 to schedule a VIP consultation to determine if SMILE or any of our other procedures is right for you.