A new method of laser eye surgery has been successfully tested at the Optegra Eye Hospital London. Rather than slicing open a flap on the surface on the eye in order to operate on its internal structure, the new method creates only a small 2mm hole through which all the work is carried out.
The medical name for the surgery is the Small Incision Lenticule Extraction, or SMILE for short.
The “keyhole surgery” leaves the smallest wound of any of the laser eye surgeries to date, which requires less healing and recovery time. Typically, even well healed incisions in the eye are weaker than eye tissue that has never been operated on, meaning this new surgery leaves the surface of the eye in better condition, and at less risk of becoming damaged in the future.
The patient on which this new eye surgery was performed was Lee Greenaway, 36, a groundsman from Basildon in Essex, asked about his decision to undergo the new procedure, he said: “I had done a lot of online research looking into the kind of laser surgery available before making my decision. I am really keen on keeping fit – I run several times a week and enjoy swimming. In the past I tried amateur boxing but poor eyesight proved a problem hitting a moving target. One of my decisions to choose the SMILE procedure over LASIK was my concern about the risk of a flap becoming dislodged if I wished to try contact sports in the future. To me SMILE sounded like the ideal solution – all the benefits of laser, but with keyhole surgery.”
Lee had had vision problems since he was just 8 year old, when he was diagnosed as being short sighted, as well as having astigmatism. At a young age he wore glasses just for reading and writing while in school, but as he grew older his visual acuity diminished, and he eventually needed to wear eye glasses at all times. As an avid athlete, he found wearing glasses to be incompatible with the active lifestyle he wants to live.
While the types of eye injuries that can affect those that have had flap-based laser eye surgery are rare, they are most common among those that are involved in high-contact sports, such as rugby, or martial arts.
According to Dr. James Ball, ophthalmic surgeon, from Optegra Eye Hospital London, “While it is rare, if someone suffers trauma to the eye at any point after traditional laser eye surgery, there is a risk that the flap can dislodge. This would need to be quite a significant trauma, but a Chinese study of vast numbers of soldiers who had been treated with LASIK, recently revealed that flaps can come loose if the eye is injured, even years later. So what that means for us, is that people who play normal contact sports should be very secure, but if you enjoy activities such as martial arts or if you were to be assaulted, the eye is more likely to suffer trauma with traditional methods than if laser is conducted with SMILE.”