Questions About Laser Eye Surgery to Ask Your Doctor

By Debra Gordon

• How many of these procedures have you done? Although there is no absolute number, ideally you should choose a doctor who has performed at least 500, says Dr. Marguerite McDonald, president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery.

• Who will handle my preoperative evaluation, postoperative care and follow-up and what are their qualifications? Some doctors turn this part of the care over to other physicians or even optometrists. “Co-management with an optometrist is fine,” says American Academy of Ophthalmology spokesman Dr. James J. Salz, “but don’t rely on the optometrist for a referral to a surgeon, since he or she obviously has a vested interest in who performs the procedure.”

• Is this strictly a refractive surgery center or a full-service ophthalmic practice offering refractive surgery as one of its specialties?

• How many times will I see the doctor prior to surgery?

o will be my main contact at the office? (Surgeon? Nurse? Refractive Coordinator?)

• What are the qualifications of the person providing follow-up care?

• What are the outcomes you are achieving? According to figures submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at six months postoperatively, approximately 93 percent of patients achieve 20/40 vision, and 56 percent achieve 20/20 vision. Answers close to these demonstrate the surgeon is close to achieving or exceeding benchmark outcomes. Remember that these figures are from old studies and many surgeons are experiencing much higher success rates today.

• What is your complication rate? According to several large studies, there is approximately a 2 percent intraoperative and 3 to 5 percent postoperative complication rate. The rate of severe complications should be substantially less than 1 percent.

• What percentage of patients do you reject? Doctors should turn away patients if they are not good candidates.

• Is postoperative medication included in the cost of the surgery? If not, what will it cost?

• Are enhancements (corrections) included in the cost of the surgery?

• Do you do both eyes at the same time?

• What type of laser do you use? Make sure your doctor uses an FDA-approved laser. The FDA provides a list of approved lasers at

• Are you a corneal-trained specialist? Ideally, you should choose a physician who has completed a fellowship in corneal surgery.


• American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery – – This professional organization for ophthalmologic surgeons offers a searchable directory of physicians.

• American Academy of Ophthalmology – – This professional organization for ophthalmologic surgeons offers a searchable directory of physicians.

• ASCRS LASIK Institute – – Nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting the best possible understanding and implementation of the LASIK procedure for refractive surgery.

• The Food and Drug Administration – – Provides consumer information on the surgery.

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Is Laser Eye Surgery Right for You?

Debra Gordon is a freelance writer who specializes in health issues.
From Get Up and Go, a United Parenting Publication, June 2004.