LASIK vs LASEK vs PRK: advantages and indications

Semin Ophthalmol. 2003 Mar;18(1):2-10. doi: 10.1076/soph.


The advent of the excimer laser as an instrument for use in reshaping the corneal stroma was a great step forward in refractive surgery. Laser energy can be delivered on the stromal surface in the photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) procedure or deeper on the corneal stroma by the means of a lamellar surgery in which a flap is created with the microkeratome in the laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) procedure. LASIK is currently the dominant procedure in refractive surgery. The main advantage of LASIK over PRK is related to maintaining the central corneal epithelium. This increases comfort during the early post-operative period, allows for rapid visual recovery, and reduces the wound healing response. Reduced wound healing correlates with less regression for high corrections and a lower rate of complications such as significant stromal opacity (haze). PRK, however, remains as an excellent option for mild to moderate corrections, particularly for cases associated with thin corneas, recurrent erosions, or a predisposition for trauma (Martial arts, military, etc.). Recently, a modification of PRK, laser subepithelial keratomileusis (LASEK), was introduced. In the LASEK procedure, an epithelial flap is created and replaced after the ablation. The benefits, if any, of the creation of an epithelial flap compared to traditional PRK are not fully appreciated. Advocates of LASEK suggest that there is less discomfort in the early postoperative period, faster visual recovery, and less haze compared to standard PRK for correction of similar levels of refractive error. Additional long-term clinical studies, along with laboratory research, will be crucial to validate these potential advantages of LASEK procedure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications
  • Keratomileusis, Laser In Situ / methods*
  • Lasers, Excimer
  • Photorefractive Keratectomy / methods*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Refractive Surgical Procedures*
  • Visual Acuity
  • Wound Healing