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The PRK Process

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Hi All,


I searched the forums when I was first thinking about laser eye surgery a few months ago and never found a dedicated topic on eye surgery. Since many people out there are like myself and relied on glasses/contacts for years, I thought I would share my story. Note: I was treated with PRK and not LASIK. I will be giving info based on my surgery. For anyone who has had LASIK, I encourage you to share you story since I know there are other people out there who may be thinking that route. I was hoping this could be a one-stop shop for those who needed to know how it all goes (hopefully a sticky if it catches on!)


The Research


Do not forget about this very important initial step! Before I made any calls to surgery centers or doctors, I did my own research on what actually occurs when you get laser vision correction. I learned the differences between LASIK and PRK, as well as the other non-waiverable surgeries such as RK and lens transplants before ever stepping foot into the doctors office. There is a plethora of info out there, google is your friend. By searching "LASIK and PRK" or "What is laser vision surgery" you will find loads of articles, diagrams, videos and summaries. A good starting point is the FDA website on LASIK and other refractive surgeries (FDA). That is a good starting point and also has information on which lasers are used during the actual surgery. It's important to know this information BEFORE you "go under" to make sure you are being treated properly. There is no reverse for this type of procedure so you want it done right the first time! Also, the Army itself has a flow sheet in which it recommends you follow. Do it. I will include that at the end of this write-up. After researching about the different surgeries, I would also recommend looking in your area for LASIK/PRK doctors offices or surgery centers. I live in the Cincinnati, OH area (mid-sized city) and I found four different companies that offer LASIK/PRK. After you have found some companies, look into them. Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are reputable. You wouldn't want to have surgery on your eyes by a place that currently has multiple lawsuits for malpractice, etc. Chances are if they are in business still it should be OK, but we are talking about your vision here. Don't want to take any chances! After you have decided on a few places, call and schedule a FREE (they should all be free) comprehensive eye exam. The Army says you should visit at least two, but it doesn't hurt to check with more since it isn't costing you anything but time.


The Consultations


I made two separate appointments. The first was with LasikPlus, a national chain that has an office fairly close to me. The second was Cincinnati Eye Institute, a leading eye center that deals with all aspects of vision, not just laser surgery. They also operate a 24 hour eye emergency room.


LasikPlus: I felt very comfortable here. Everyone from the moment I walked in to the moment I walked out was friendly. The opthamologist was even helping a patient's father use the fancy coffee maker. I checked in, filled out some initial forms/paperwork. An eye technician then took me for a battery of tests. All of them scan the eye in some way. They measured my glasses prescription, eye topography, corneal thickness, etc. All in all there were maybe 4-5 different scans. None of them hurt, and they were all relatively quick. After all the scans were completed, eye dilation drops were instilled. While waiting for the eyes to dilate, they have you watch a video on LASIK/PRK common questions and explanations. Thanks to my previous research, this was nothing new to me. After the movie, they took me back for a few more measurements of my pupils. The doctor then came in and did some more examination of my eyes, glaucoma tests and we talked about different surgical options. This particular doctor recommended PRK for me for a few reasons. I told them upfront I was doing this with a military pilot goal in mind. However, my pupil size and corneal thickness limited me to PRK regardless. People with larger pupils and thinner corneas are not as good candidates for LASIK as they are for PRK. I asked some questions, mainly ones I couldn't find answers to online or that I wanted further clearing up on. I also wanted to make sure the doctor would be able to fill out and give me all the paperwork, history and forms that I would eventually need for the fight surgeon. He obliged and gave me some information about correcting other pilot's vision (FW and RW). After the appt, I met with a scheduler to discuss cost. The procedure estimate was roughly $3,400 for both eyes. There is no price difference for LASIK/PRK, just FYI. I told them I needed to do some more research and would follow up with them if I decided to schedule something. No problem here, they were very supportive.


Cincinnati Eye Inst: Very similar here. All the testing was exactly the same, and followed the same manners. I did not feel as comfortable here, as this was a big fancy center that just wasn't as personable feeling for me. Just a personal preference, nothing against them as doctors. Very knowledgeable staff, however. The price here was a little more expensive, at roughly $4,200.


When making initial appointments, it's important to not wear your contacts for whatever timeframe they give you up to your appt. I think for me it was a week, but I wasn't wearing mine for a few months anyway. Also, I am not recommending one place over another, this is just how I felt. Each person is different. I would NEVER base my decision solely on price either. We are talking about a one-time procedure that will effect you for the rest of your life. A couple hundred dollars isn't something to squabble about when making a choice. Many factors should come into play when finally choosing.


The Treatment Day


Not much here, arrive a few minutes early. Met with the surgeon for any questions. Paid for the procedure beforehand (like this everywhere). Take a blood pressure and temp. Go over eye drop schedule and gave me prescriptions that would need to be filled on the way home. Entered the surgery suite, and was out within 10 minutes. They cover the one eye and walk you through everything with each eye. For ex: when the laser is on, when vision will be blurry, clear, seeing all white, irrigating etc. Repeat with the second eye. Most amazing thing: sitting up and being able to read the clock on the wall without contacts or glasses! First time in about 14 years! Had a friend drive me home, dropped off my prescriptions and went to bed for a few hours. Drops begin every 4 hours during the normal day.


Day After: Burning, itching and major light sensitivity.

Day 2: About the same.

Day 3: Initial sensitivity to light, but much better. No real burning. A little dryness.

Day 4: Where I'm at now. Can see somewhat! Enough to use the computer at least! I still have a long way to go in the recovery process. They say it could take a week to 3 months for vision to FULLY stabilize and all residual effects to go away (haze, blurry vision, glare and halos).


I will continue to update every few days. I go back in a couple days to have the bandage contact taken out (just for protection only for PRK. Has no strength. Stays in for approx. one week).


If anyone has any questions on this process, please let me know. I'd be more than happy to share more of my experience. Sorry if this was a little too long, but I think it contains some good information that some will (hopefully) find useful). Again, you MUST do your own research and get at least two opinions on whether or not you are a good candidate. Fluctuations with PRK are very normal for the first few weeks, which I am currently experiencing now so I am by no means an expert or seeing 20/20 yet.


As for me, I am getting my packet together now. Studying for the ASVAB/AFAST and working on my essay. Have letters secured for a Ret. Marine officer, current Lt. Cmdr. in the Navy (same level as Maj in Army), college professor, and current boss (director of ER in my local hospital) and working on the CW3 or higher. I have a BS degree, graduated in May of 2010 with a 3.5 GPA. 23 years old, no speeding or parking tickets or morale waivers. I'm in the same boat as a lot of you, just starting. Best of luck to all and if I can do anything for anyone ever, please let me know!






Link for Opthamology from Rucker which includes the flowsheet:



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I had LASIK a couple of weeks ago and the process is the same except surgery wise. The only difference I noticed would be


Day 1: Same as posted above (take a nap when you get home)


I had my surgery at 2:30 in the afternoon, got home took a nap till about 6, all the itchy and scratchy part was gone for me. Still had some light sensitivity and blurry vision but not bad


Day 2: Expect dry eyes. I drove to the Dr.'s office and then a 2 1/2 hr drive to work.


Expect Halo's during the night time for the first couple of weeks. Had mine done on the first of the month and they have pretty much gone away at this point.


Oh, and I've had 20/20 vision since morning of day 2.

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Thanks for all this info! I made a list today of all the laser surgeons around me and am planning on calling them on Monday. Or tomorrow, if possible. I work 24 hour shifts, so who knows if I will have time.


Glad to see someone else in EMS going for Warrant. Good luck to you!

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  • 9 months later...

Hey all, not sure where best to post this, so I'll just put it here.


I'm about to begin the WOFT application process and have researched it plenty for the last couple years, but was always putting it off until I could afford PRK.


My question is regarding waivers for vision and what you guys might recommend. I don't know what my eyesight is exactly, but I wear contacts at -1.5 right eye, -1.25 left eye(steady for 3 years). I thought I saw someone mention it might be possible to get a waiver for vision if it isn't worse than -1.5. I previously just assumed I couldn't make it since I'm pretty positive I'm not 20/50 or better.


Is there any way to determine whether you'd pass the flight physical before getting to that point in the application process? I ask this because I don't want to decide not to get PRK, then spend 2 months getting to the flight physical part only to find out that I do indeed need PRK. Then have to wait an additional 3 months. The alternative is to get PRK now and start the 3 month timer and work on my packet during that time.


Does anyone know how likely it would be that I could get a waiver? I really just don't want to make the process longer because I decided not to get PRK. Sorry this is so long and thanks in advance for the advice/help.


Other stats:

23 years old

BS Industrial Engineering

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I had the exact same dilemma when I dropped my packet for WOFT. I'm having trouble looking up the policy letters for what the pre-op limits are, but as long as your diopters at full post-op recovery are within the prescribed limits, the waiver is more or less automatic.


The way you can find out if you're "within the limits" is to get the acceptable range for pre-op + post-op diopters and have your optometrist or ophthalmologist test your cycloplegic refraction. That's the best way to have the most confidence going into it.

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