Photorefractive keratectomy ( PRK )
Photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK, is a type of laser eye surgery used to correct mild to moderate nearsightedness , farsightedness and/or astigmatism .
All laser vision correction surgeries work by reshaping the cornea, or clear front part of the eye, so that light traveling through it is properly focused onto the retina located in the back of the eye. There are a number of different surgical techniques used to reshape the cornea. During PRK, an eye surgeon uses a laser to reshape the cornea. This laser, which delivers a cool pulsing beam of ultraviolet light, is used on the surface of the cornea not underneath the cornea, as in LASIK.
PRK is highly accurate in correcting many cases of nearsightedness. Approximately 80% of PRK patients have 20/20 vision without glasses or contact lenses one year after the surgery; 95%-98% have 20/40 or better without glasses or contacts.
What Should I Expect After PRK Surgery?
Most of the time, a bandage contact lens will be applied immediately after the procedure. This contact lens is usually worn for the first 3 to 4 days to allow the surface of the eye to heal. You should expect to visit your eye doctor at least a few times during the first 6 months after surgery, with the first visit being the day after surgery. Once the surface of the eye is healed, the bandage contact lens is removed.
Your vision may fluctuate between clear and blurry for the first few weeks following surgery and you may need to wear glasses for night driving or reading until your vision stabilizes. Your eyes will be dry even though they do not feel that way. Your doctor will give you prescription eye drops to prevent infection and keep your eyes moist. These drops may cause a slight burn or momentary blurring of your vision upon using them. Do not use any drops not approved by your ophthalmologist.
Your vision will gradually improve, and usually will be good enough to allow you to drive a car within two to three weeks following surgery. Keep in mind, however, that your best vision may not be obtained for up to 6 weeks to 6 months following surgery.
Before PRK Surgery
Before PRK surgery can be performed, a thorough eye exam and evaluation of the patient’s eye history must be completed. A doctor will determine whether the patient is a good candidate for PRK laser surgery by identifying any ocular irregularities, measuring the degree of refractive error in the eyes and the thickness of the pupil and cornea, examining a topographical map of the cornea, analyzing the tear function of the eyes, and discussing the patient’s medical history, lifestyle, and expectations for the procedure. Patients who wear contacts will need to discontinue wearing their lenses for a period of time before their pre-op. The doctor will advise you when to stop wearing them at your initial appointment. Refraining from wearing the corrective lenses ensures that the refractive error of the eyes is measured properly during the pre-surgery examination.
The PRK Surgery Operation
Immediately before PRK laser surgery, the eye is numbed with eye drops. The surgeon then uses the excimer laser, which emits a cool, concentrated beam of ultraviolet light, to reshape the surface of the cornea inside the eye and the underlying tissue. By smoothing the cornea’s surface and removing imperfections in the tissue, the surgeon can produce clearer vision. The PRK procedure takes less than 15 minutes to complete. Your doctor will advise you if both eyes can be treated during the same surgical session.
PRK Recovery Timeline - After Surgery
It is important to note that the period of recovery from PRK laser surgery is generally longer than the same period required for LASIK patients. Also, while LASIK patients notice dramatically improved vision almost immediately after their procedure, PRK patients often do not experience better vision for one or two weeks following their surgery at our Denver and Centennial area practice. PRK patients are commonly prescribed antibiotic and anti-inflammatory eye drops to reduce swelling and infection after their surgery.
However, PRK is still a popular alternative to traditional LASIK surgery because the corneal flap that must be made in LASIK surgery is not necessary in PRK. For this reason, some athletes and others with a higher risk of corneal trauma undergo a Denver PRK procedure rather than LASIK.