Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK

Am Fam Physician. 2017 May 15;95(10):637-644.


A variety of refractive surgery techniques, which reshape the corneal stroma using laser energy, have been marketed as simple and safe alternatives to glasses or contact lenses. Laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is the most common of these procedures. Although there are few high-quality prospective studies of long-term outcomes, complications, or stability for refractive surgery procedures, there is at least general agreement that more than 90% of appropriately selected patients achieve excellent uncorrected distance vision. In addition to well-recognized contraindications (e.g., unstable refraction, pregnancy and lactation, chronic eye disease, systemic illness, corneal abnormalities), there are other conditions that warrant caution (e.g., excessively dry eyes, contact lens intolerance, chronic pain syndromes). Postoperative dry eye, which may in part represent a corneal neuropathy, usually resolves after six to 12 months but persists in up to 20% of patients. Up to 20% of patients may have new visual disturbances, particularly with night driving. Vision-threatening complications are rare. Intraocular lenses, implanted following cataract extraction, may be an alternative to LASIK in older patients. Although the overall dependence on corrective lenses is markedly reduced, many patients still require glasses or contact lenses after LASIK, particularly in low-light conditions and as they age. Most patients report satisfaction with the results. Family physicians can help patients make informed decisions by exploring their values, preferences, expectations, and tolerance of uncertainty and risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dry Eye Syndromes / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Hyperopia / surgery
  • Keratomileusis, Laser In Situ / adverse effects
  • Keratomileusis, Laser In Situ / methods*
  • Myopia / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vision Disorders / surgery*
  • Visual Acuity