Purpose: To describe the preoperative characteristics, intraoperative details, management, and postoperative in patients with bilateral epithelial defects after laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK).
Methods: Retrospective non-comparative case series.
Results: Six patients with bilateral epithelial defects after LASIK were part of a cohort of 605 patients undergoing bilateral LASIK at our center from December 2001 to April 2003. The mean age of the patients (5M:1F) was 28.5 +/- 7.9 years, and the average pretreatment myopic spherical equivalent (SE) refraction was 7.3 +/- 0.7 D (-4, -12.25D). An epithelial flap was present in 6 eyes and an epithelial defect with a mean diameter of 3 mm (2mm, 6mm) was seen in 6 eyes. In four patients the epithelial disturbance was bilaterally similar. All defects occurred in the inferior cornea and the epithelial flaps had the hinge positioned superiorly. None of the patients had ocular or systemic risk factors that could have resulted in this complication. A bandage contact lens was used in 6 eyes. At last follow-up of 5.5 +/- 9.5 months (0.25, 21 months), unaided visual acuity was 6/9 or better in 10 eyes. Best spectacle-corrected visual acuity (BSCVA) was maintained in 8 eyes, while 4 eyes lost one line of BSCVA. Recurrent corneal erosions were not reported in the follow-up period.
Conclusions: These patients represent a hitherto unrecognised group of individuals who appear to have a subclinical weakness of adhesion of the corneal epithelium to the underlying structures, which is not evident on clinical examination. This results in bilateral epithelial disturbances after LASIK. Appropriate management results in satisfactory clinical outcomes. Other options for treatment of the fellow eye of such patients include the use of a different microkeratome, release of suction during the reverse pass of the Hansatome microkeratome, and photorefractive keratectomy if the refractive error is low.