Laser eye surgery is now accepted as an effective vision correction option that can help people throw away their glasses or contact lenses. In fact, millions of people around the world have benefited from a laser vision correction procedure.
Interestingly, the laser technology that is used to perform laser eye surgery has remained the same for over a decade. In fact, LASIK (Laser-Assisted in situ Keratomileusis) and ASLA (Advanced Surface Laser Ablation) are the two most common procedures performed. Both have continued to provide outstanding visual results for surgeons and patients alike.
SMILE laser eye surgery is a highly effective alternative to LASIK or ASLA. This latest procedure is a bladeless one-step, one laser procedure. SMILE is minimally invasive, using what is called ‘photo separation of tissue’, which is created by the laser. No flap is created, leaving the top layer of the cornea (the epithelium) intact other than a minimal entry point. This makes SMILE similar to all other forms of keyhole surgery and brings the same benefits – it’s a less invasive procedure that produces a more stable and highly predictable outcome.
A refractive error refers to a vision problem that happens when the shape of the cornea prevents a person from being able to focus properly. Short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism are all refractive errors. A person with ‘perfect’ vision has a perfectly round cornea.
A person who has any of these three errors have a cornea that is not completely round. In the early stages, a refractive error would require the person to correct their vision with the use of glasses or contact lenses. Laser eye surgery such as LASIK and ASLA uses laser technology to reshape the cornea in order to correct vision. SMILE also reshapes the cornea, however the steps are different.
Here’s how SMILE works: rather than creating an incision in the top layer of the cornea, the laser creates a tiny 4-5mm keyhole entry point. Then the computer guided, highly focused laser light creates an extremely precise lens-shaped disc of tissue within the cornea. This disc of tissue is called a ‘lenticule’ because it is lenticular in shape and is removable. The surgeon would have programmed the computer before the procedure begins to ensure the laser is set to create the lenticule to the exact size and shape that corresponds to the refractive error of the patient.
Once the laser part of the procedure is finalised, the laser eye surgeon will gently remove the lenticule through the tiny keyhole incision. The removal of the disc reshapes the cornea and vision is corrected. The laser portion of the procedure is quick – it’s all over in 25 seconds. The patient will be in the laser suite for around 20 minutes and in the clinic for around 2 hours, then home to rest.
While SMILE technology has been designed to make the patient as comfortable as possible, the experience of a surgical procedure can differ from person-to-person. The Vision Eye Institute team will endeavour to make a SMILE procedure as relaxed and stress-free as possible.
Most people say they feel a bit of pressure, maybe some mild discomfort but no pain. Unlike LASIK, which sometimes involves moving from one bed to the other, a patient doesn’t need to leave the purpose-built bed until the procedure is over. Although everyone is different, recovery is generally quick – most people will be able to return to work three to four days after surgery, drive 1 week after surgery and their vision will settle within a matter of weeks.