How long does LASIK surgery take?

We often get the question, “How long will my LASIK surgery take?” While this seems an easy question to answer, it’s never easy to succinctly provide a patient with the whole treatment picture.

The lasers used in LASIK eye surgery are on an eye for mere seconds – and surgery is usually done in 15 minutes – but the process is much more complex than ZAP! and you’re done. We’ll drill down a little deeper on laser surgery time in a minute, but first, let’s cover what happens before LASIK.

No LASIK procedure takes place without a baseline eye examination to determine the patient’s starting point. If you wear contact lenses, you will need to be out of your contacts for a period of time before this exam, depending on the type of lens you wear. Because contacts alter the shape of your corneas, you’ll have to switch to glasses long enough to allow your eyes to return to their natural shape for the most accurate measurements.

The amount of time spent in diagnosis may vary from one laser eye surgery center to another depending on how they’re equipped. The Brinton Vision Ocular Analysis (BVOA) takes about 90 minutes and measures your eye in 3D from the front of the cornea to the back of the retina.

What is a Brinton Vision Ocular Analysis?

  1. Acutarget HD – measures vision quality and light scatter. It also diagnoses early dry eye, stages of dysfunctional lens syndrome, “over-40” vision and cataracts.
  2. LenStar LS 900 APS – takes 32 precise laser optic measurements of the entire eye, including pupil size and corneal astigmatism.
  3. 3D Maestro Fundus & OCT Scanner – performs a high-resolution, three-dimensional optical coherence tomography scan of the eye. The high-definition images aid in assessing overall health of the retina, macula and optic nerve.
  4. CEM-530 Specular Microscope – determines the health of corneal cells within the eye through automated endothelial cell counting of the central and paracentral cornea.
  5. Pentacam HR – provides high-resolution tomography and images of the shape, size and position of ocular structures involved in LASIK and refractive surgery. It also captures the curvature and thickness of the cornea, which is used for Visian ICL sizing and post-operative examinations.
  6. Visante Anterior Scanner OCT – produces high-resolution images of the front of the eye where laser vision correction is performed, and aids in evaluating complex LASIK cases. It also provides imaging of the front of eye for ICL (implantable contact lens) sizing.
  7. Wavescan Wavefront System – measures 240 data points within the eye, so your surgeon can customize LASIK treatments to the unique characteristics of each eye.

After gathering these precise images and measurements, your surgeon will discuss whether you’re a candidate for LASIK, what laser vision correction procedure(s) might be a good fit for you, and how the process will move forward. At Brinton Vision, each patient is provided adequate time to ask questions about their eyesight, whether they qualify for LASIK or not.

How long will I be at the eye surgery center for my LASIK?

Most surgical visits at Brinton Vision require that you block out 2-3 hours for your procedure. This allows adequate time for check-in, surgical preparation, surgery, and time in the office immediately after surgery to ensure you’re comfortable and well on your way to healing. (You’ll also need to reserve time for a follow-up, but more on that later …)

Here’s greater detail on how your time on surgery day breaks down:

  • You’ll be asked to arrive about 10 minutes before your appointment time. This gives you time to fill out any paperwork or ask/answer questions before your workup starts.
  • The Brinton Vision staff will provide you with a fashionable little blue surgical cap to wear during your procedure, and will prep you (physically and emotionally) for surgery. This includes the application of numbing drops to your eyes to reduce or eliminate discomfort.
  • For laser eye surgery, your surgeon will use a femtosecond laser to create a flap (which acts like nature’s Band-Aid after the procedure) in the outermost layer of the cornea, which takes approximately 18 seconds per eye. PRK surgery is different in that the surgeon will instead use a special drop to prepare the surface of the eye for the treatment. SMILE, RLE, and Visian ICL are different in that there is no flap.
  • Next, the surgeon will either install your new lens or use an excimer laser to reshape your existing cornea to correct the refractive error that kept you from seeing clearly. The excimer laser can make corrections as small as 0.25 of a micron – about 1/4000 the size of a grain of sand! Now, all those fantastically precise diagnostics make more sense.
  • Within seconds, the laser procedure is completed and, where applicable, the protective corneal flap is laid back into place. All told, the laser vision correction surgery itself usually takes about 15 minutes.
  • Your surgeon will ask that you stay in the clinic for a brief time after surgery to ensure there are no immediate needs to address.

Brinton Vision asks that surgical patients return to see their surgeon the day after surgery to make sure healing is off to a great start. You will have check-ups at regular intervals for the next three to six months – until your eyes are completely healed.

What about healing? How long will I be off work after LASIK?

We recommend you go home and take it easy for a few hours immediately following your surgery (you’ll need someone to drive you home, as your vision may be blurry). You’ll have a follow-up with your surgeon the day after surgery to check visual acuity. Regardless of the LASIK or LASIK alternative procedure, most patients can return to work the next day.

Initial healing begins immediately, but do give your eyes adequate rest during those first hours. If there are any restrictions specific to your procedure and lifestyle, your surgeon will discuss them with you before surgery.

Brinton Vision is the only full-time laser eye surgery center in the state of Missouri to offer LASIK plus all six modern LASIK alternatives: SBK, refractive lens exchange (RLE), Visian ICL, PRK, SMILE and KAMRA Inlay. Take our 60-second self-test to see if you might be a candidate, or call 314.375.2020 for more information.

See the next article in the LASIK Questions series: Can LASIK make you go blind?