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How does PRK/LASEK laser eye surgery work?

Photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) is the oldest method of laser eye surgery; for over 40 years, the procedure has been successfully used to permanently correct all kinds of visual defects. The procedure is performed without making an incision in the ocular surface. The outermost layer of the corneal cells (epithelium) is manually removed using a gentle alcohol solution in order to expose the corneal layers underneath for laser treatment:

  • PRK: the epithelium is completely removed.
  • LASEK: the epithelium is simply moved to one side.

Once the laser has corrected the visual defect, either the epithelium is folded back into place (LASEK) or a lens is inserted in order to protect your eye until the epithelium has regenerated. The PRK procedure does not involve making a flap, which reduces the risk of complications.

Here at SmartLaser, we work with the cutting-edge Schwind Amaris 1050RS laser system. This means that the PRK method can be used when it is not possible to perform other procedures such as LASIK or Trans-PRK due to particular aspects of a patient’s health.

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Prescription ranges and limitations of the PRK method

A specialist must check on an individual basis whether a patient meets the requirements to have a PRK laser eye surgery procedure. The general rule is that the patient’s visual defect must not have changed over at least the past year and their eyes must be healthy.

The PRK method can be particularly effective for the treatment of mild myopia. Even corneal astigmatism can be corrected by this procedure. PRK is not typically used to treat hyperopia. Approximate PRK prescription range:

  • Myopia: -6 up to max. -8 dioptres
  • Hyperopia: up to +3 dioptres
  • Corneal astigmatism: up to +4 dioptres

The procedure reaches its limitations/cannot be performed if:

  • The patient’s cornea does not meet the minimum thickness requirements
  • The patient suffers from a chronic corneal disease
  • The patient suffers from eye conditions such as glaucoma or cataracts
  • The patient suffers from an autoimmune disease or wound healing disorder
  • The patient is currently pregnant

PRK laser eye surgery is also particularly suitable for people who play sports regularly, or for people who work in specific professions (e.g. in the police or fire service).

Advantages of PRK laser treatment

The PRK method has been used successfully for decades and enables a wide range of different visual defects to be permanently corrected.

The main advantages at a glance

  • Modern technology and experienced surgeons ensure that procedures are equally safe, efficient and performed with great precision. No flap complications.
  • Requires only minimal changes to the corneal stroma, which makes it possible to perform the procedure on patients with thin corneas.
  • Pain-free, gentle procedure that ensures stability of the corneal tissue. It is extremely rare for complications to occur.
  • Easy to make follow-up corrections in the case of persistent visual defects.
PRK step by step

Initial consultation

During your initial consultation, our specialists will ascertain whether a PRK procedure is a viable option for you. Your health and the condition of your eyes play a crucial role in this, as do your own ideas and expectations. Alternatively, SmartLaser Vienna offers Trans-PRK and Femto-LASIK procedures.


Pre-operative preparations

For your safety, your face will be disinfected, your eyelids will be held open and your eyes will be numbed using special eye drops. These steps result in a smooth and pain-free PRK procedure. If any questions have arisen since your initial consultation, we will be happy to take the time to answer them for you.


The SmartLaser PRK procedure

The outermost layer of the cornea will be removed using a weak alcohol solution or a blunt surgical knife. The excimer laser will then ablate some of the corneal tissue in order to correct your visual defect. At the end of the procedure – which only takes a few minutes – a protective contact lens will be inserted.


Follow-up appointments

You will usually have two follow-up appointments – one after your treatment and one at the end of the healing process. At your first follow-up appointment, the protective contact lens will be removed and the doctor will assess the regeneration of the epithelial cells. The last step of your treatment is the final review appointment at the SmartLaser Centre in Vienna.

How long is the healing process following the PRK procedure?

Once removed, the outer layer of the cornea (epithelium) will regenerate within a few days. Many patients experience a distinct foreign body sensation or burning sensation during the regeneration process. While the cells on the ocular surface are healing, patients may experience blurred vision for around a week.

For a fast and complication-free healing process, a protective contact lens is inserted and you will be given special eye drops and aftercare instructions.

It usually takes a few weeks for you to experience the full benefits of your ‘new’ eyesight. Once the healing process is complete and your brain has adapted to these changes (known as neuroadaptation), you will be able to see clearly and say goodbye to glasses and contact lenses for good!

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