Complications of laser in situ keratomileusis for the correction of myopia

Ophthalmology. 1999 Jan;106(1):13-20. doi: 10.1016/S0161-6420(99)90000-3.


Objective: To determine the incidence and severity of complications from laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) for the correction of myopia by experienced and inexperienced surgeons.

Design: Prospective, observational clinical study.

Participants: Fourteen surgeons and 1062 eyes of 574 myopic patients who desired surgical correction of myopia ranging from -2.00 to -22.50 diopters (D; mean, -7.57 D) and astigmatism no greater than 4.00 D participated in this study.

Intervention: Myopia was corrected with LASIK. Astigmatism was corrected with arcuate keratotomy at the same time as the initial procedure or subsequently.

Main outcome measures: Primary outcome measures were change in best spectacle-corrected visual acuity (BSCVA) and the incidence of complications.

Results: Eyes were followed for a mean of 9.5 months after their last surgical procedure (range, 2 weeks-21 months). Three hundred eighty-one eyes (36%) underwent 468 enhancement procedures 3 months or more after the initial treatment. There were 27 (2.1%) intraoperative and 40 (3.1%) postoperative complications. Laser ablation was not performed during the initial treatment of 17 (1.6%) eyes because of intraoperative complications. Seventy-four eyes gained 2 or more lines of BSCVA, while 50 eyes lost 2 or more lines of BSCVA. Only three eyes lost two or more lines of BSCVA to a level worse than 20/40. One eye with a flap buttonhole (BSCVA 20/50) also had an epiretinal membrane. The second eye (BSCVA 20/60) had a flap buttonhole that may have been related to a previous corneal transplant. The third eye (-22.50 D before surgery) had a rhegmatogenous retinal detachment develop, reducing BSCVA from 20/60 to 20/200. The incidence of intraoperative complications decreased from 3.1% during the first 3 months to 0.7% during the last 9 months of the study (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: LASIK is acceptably safe for the correction of myopia. Although complications occur in approximately 5% of cases, these rarely lead to visual loss of more than two Snellen lines and postoperative acuity below 20/40. Flap buttonholes were more likely to cause loss of BSCVA than free or incomplete flaps (P = 0.02); flap buttonholes may be more likely in eyes that have undergone previous surgery. Complication rates can be reduced as the surgical team gains experience.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Astigmatism / surgery
  • Corneal Stroma / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intraoperative Complications* / prevention & control
  • Keratotomy, Radial
  • Laser Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Myopia / surgery*
  • Ophthalmologic Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Postoperative Complications* / prevention & control
  • Prospective Studies
  • Safety
  • Surgical Flaps
  • Visual Acuity