LASIK Eye Surgery May Cause Complications For 45% of Patients: FDA

  • Written by: Russell Maas

A multi-phase study designed to evaluate the potential side effects of LASIK eye surgery suggests that nearly half of patients experience some sort of visual complications following the procedure. 

The findings of the new research were outlined by the FDA in an update posted this week to the agency’s LASIK information page.

According to the review by the federal health regulators, up to 45% of patients who undergo the laser eye surgery can expect some kind of vision problem, with many patients ultimately developing visual halos and experiencing difficulty driving at different times of the day. Many also develop severe dry eye and other eye complications.

These findings come following a probe launched by the FDA following concerns that the industry was painting too rosy a picture of LASIK outcomes, without actually having data on hand to outline the real-world risks.

LASIK Eye Surgery Concerns

LASIK is a form of eye surgery that uses a laser to improve a patient’s vision and reduce their need to wear glasses or contact lenses. During the eye surgery, a surgical instrument known as a microkeratome is used to cut through the top layers of the cornea to create a flap. A laser beam is then used to reshape the cornea for vision correction and the corneal flap is replaced.

In October 2009, the FDA, the National Eye Institute (NEI), and the Department of Defense (DoD) launched the LASIK Quality of Life Collaboration Project (LQOLCP), which aimed to determine the percentage of patients who develop post-LASIK surgery difficulties.

The study used tools and questionnaires to assess visual symptoms patients were experiencing before receiving the correctional surgery and complications experienced following LASIK surgery, to identify changes over time and possible long term side effects.

When the study began, there was very little scientific data on certain patient reported outcomes (PROs), and in 2009 the FDA issued a warning letter about the use of misleading ads that do not warn patients about all of the potential risks. The agency issued another LASIK warning letter in 2011.

The results from the latest study indicate that up to 45% of participates who had no visual symptoms before surgery, had reported at least one visual symptom at three months following the LASIK surgery and some participates recorded having difficulty driving at night or in sunshine. The results further indicated that 35% of participants who had no prior complications had experienced halos within the first three months and 30% of the participants experienced severe dry eyes and other various debilitating vision symptoms.

The study also collected data from participants who were classified as “dissatisfied” with their correctional surgery for reasons such as experiencing double vision, ghosting, starburst, glares, and halos.

FDA officials say they hope the findings from the study will help the agency better refine the labeling risks associated with receiving LASIK surgery and will be incorporated into patient labeling guidance. In addition, they hope the results will also help spread the awareness of possible side effects and dangers following LASIK surgery.

Although rare, a number of patients have filed Lasik surgery malpractice lawsuits against eye surgeons over complications that were allegedly caused by a failure to follow the appropriate standard of medical care, most commonly involving problems that occur after a doctor fails to properly screen patients out as a potential candidate for the eye surgery.

The FDA has set up a special section of its website for consumers to outline the potential problems with LASIK and provide other information to help consumers make a decision about whether the procedure is right for them.

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  1. Brian Reply

    In our legal practice we have seen far too many clients who underwent LASIK surgery expecting an easy ” quick fix ” who were sadly disappointed with their results. Like any other surgery LASIK has risks if not done correctly. The experience and technical expertise of the operator is of paramount importance. With the recent advent of LASIK surgery there seems to be no shortage of advertisers who hail themselves as ” experts”. Patients should beware of surgeons who’s expertise don’t necessarily justify their claims of expertise.

    It is important that LASIK surgeons properly screen their patients . Not all near sighted patients are candidates for the procedure. Intra operative errors can result in misplacement of the flap can lead to severe problems with patients experiencing glare and halo effect. Some patients experience life changing complications. The best bet for patients is to be fully informed about the risks vs benefits (very little downside to good old fashioned eye glasses) and should seek out the most experienced surgeons at leading centers.

  2. Nancy Reply

    My son, Max Cronin, age 27 years old, an Iraqi War Veteran and student for petroleum engineer, committed suicide 1-14-16, as a direct result of complications he experienced from PRK after Lasik. He left suicide letters stating this and kept details of his complications. He experienced vision loss, constant eye pain, dry eyes, haze, and loss of quality of life resulting in depression and his suicide. He was unable to work or continue his life goals due to his eye complications.

    As a medical physician, I can definitely state that Lasik complications can lead to suicide. I can also say that no one should have elective Lasik on their eyes.

    For an elecive procedure, the risks and long term complications are understated.
    The resultant complications and negative quality of life issues increase the risks of depression, attempted suicide, and suicide.


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