$1,000 LASIK Discount Washington DC

Contoura® LASIK vs. Wavefront: A Comparison Guide

Contoura® and wavefront involve precise measurements to guide the laser during LASIK. Methods doctors use to take those measurements set these two surgeries apart. 

After the procedures, you won’t need glasses or contacts for everyday activities. In some cases, you won’t need these aids at all.

Key Facts About Contoura® vs. Wavefront

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say about 12 million people have vision impairment. Surgeries like Contoura® and wavefront can correct these problems for good.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved wavefront LASIK in 2003. 
  • The FDA approved Contoura® LASIK in 2013, making it one of the newest options available. 
  • Wavefront LASIK is approved for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Contoura® is approved for nearsightedness and astigmatism only.

Contoura® LASIK vs. Wavefront: Understanding Both Procedures 

Contoura® and Wavefront involve removing corneal tissue — the layers at the front of your eye. After surgery, your eye can accept light and point it (refract it) right on the retina at the back of your eye. 

Refractive surgeries with lasers are safe, effective, and permanent solutions to common vision problems. But Contoura® and wavefront allow for customization, guiding your surgery with data and computers.

How Does Contoura® Vision Surgery Work?

Before Contoura® surgery, doctors use a machine called a Topolyzer to measure 22,000 points on your cornea. The result is a detailed, topographic map of the entire surface of your eye. 

When surgery begins, your doctor will do the following:

  • Prepare: You’ll sit upright in a chair with your head properly positioned. Your doctor will put numbing drops in your eye, and place tools on your head to keep you still and your eyelids open. 
  • Flatten: A suction device will compress your eye, creating a better surgical surface. 
  • Cut: A tool will cut a flap of cornea and push it upward. This flap will allow access to deeper tissues.
  • Program: Information from the Topolyzer moves through an algorithm into the laser. 
  • Reshape: The laser will remove excess tissue, as guided by the Topolyzer. 

The entire procedure takes just minutes. You can go home the same day.

How Does Wavefront-Guided LASIK Work?

Wavefront-guided LASIK works much the same as Contoura®, as you can see below. Just a few steps are different. 

Before your wavefront LASIK begins, doctors use a wavefront machine to shine a light into your eyes. It won’t hurt, and it takes just a few minutes. 

That light shines back into a measuring device after bouncing off your cornea. The data gives your doctor a detailed 3D map of your eye. 

When surgery begins, your doctor will do the following:

  • Prepare: You’ll sit upright in a chair with your head properly positioned. Your doctor will put numbing drops in your eye, and place tools on your head to keep you still and your eyelids open. 
  • Flatten: A suction device will compress your eye, creating a better surgical surface. 
  • Cut: A tool will cut a flap of cornea and push it upward. This flap will allow access to deeper tissues.
  • Decide: Some doctors use the 3D map to guide the cuts the laser makes. Others look at the data closely, both before and during the surgery, and maintain control over the laser manually. 
  • Reshape: The doctor uses the laser to remove excess tissue. 

Wavefront LASIK also takes just a few minutes and is performed on an outpatient basis.

Comparing Vision Correction Procedures

Contoura® Wavefront  
Conditions treated Nearsightedness and astigmatismNearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism
Success rateNearly 65% get 20/16 vision or better; nearly 93% get at least 20/20 visionOne type of Wavefront LASIK produces vision of 20/16 or better in the majority of patients
Patient qualificationStable nearsightedness and astigmatism prescriptions; thinner corneas and sharp corneal angles accepted in most casesStable prescriptions, but you may be disqualified by severe prescriptions or tiny pupils 
Cost $2,250–$3,000 per eye $2,250–$3,000 per eye
Surgery technique Detailed corneal measurements make the procedure fully customizedA 3D map of the cornea made before surgery guides the process; some program the data into the laser, while others do not 
Recovery time 24 hours to resume normal activity 24 hours to resume normal activity 
Potential side effects Glare, halos, ghosting images, and blurring as tissues healSide effects like itching and discomfort are mild and tend to fade as the eyes heal

What Are the Similarities Between Contoura® & Wavefront?

Contoura® and wavefront represent data-driven approaches to a surgery experts already considered both safe and effective. Extra testing ensures that your doctor has all the data required to give you the results you need. 

Shared factors between Contoura® and Wavefront include the following.


In traditional LASIK, your doctor uses your prescription and other standard eye examination data to determine how much corneal tissue to remove and what your final eye shape should be. 

Contoura® and Wavefront give your doctor added information. Contoura® provides data that can program your laser during surgery. Wavefront offers a 3D model your doctor can either reference or use to program the laser. 


While both Contoura® and Wavefront involve different pre-surgical testing, they both end with a LASIK procedure. A doctor creates a flap, exposes deeper tissues, and uses lasers to change the shape of the cornea. The flap is then replaced. 

Basic Costs 

New technology and machinery are required for Contoura® and wavefront procedures. That means doctors often charge a higher price for these procedures than they would for standard LASIK. 

Potential Surgical Partners

It’s relatively easy to find a doctor with extensive experience in traditional LASIK and a willingness to perform the procedure. Contoura® and wavefront are newer, and some doctors don’t have the equipment. Others are new to the process and don’t have a long track record of success in performing advanced procedures like these. 

What Are the Differences Between Contoura® & Wavefront?

While Contoura® and Wavefront are similar, important differences exist. These factors could help you decide that one is a better fit for you than the other. 

Technology Used 

Contoura® uses a Topolyzer to measure 22,000 corneal elevation points. The data is a topographical map of all the hills and valleys of your cornea. Your doctor has a very clear understanding of your eye’s mechanics and what might be causing your vision issue. 

Wavefront involves a laser-based technology. Your doctor shines a light into your pupils, which bounces off your retina and back into sophisticated technology. A 3D map of your eye is the final product, which your doctor can use to guide your LASIK surgery. 

Surgical Choices 

Contoura®’s data feeds directly into the laser. Your doctor makes subtle adjustments and controls the surgery from start to finish. But Contoura® puts data front and center, allowing for machine-based precision that humans can’t always replicate. 

Wavefront can be used in two ways. In wavefront-guided surgeries, the doctor puts data directly into the laser. In wavefront-assisted surgeries, your doctor remains in full control but allows the data to guide their decisions. 

Potential Results 

In head-to-head studies, Contoura® and wavefront both produce exceptional results. Visual acuity is similar with both options. 

But Contoura® removes significantly less tissue during surgery. That could mean a smaller risk of uncomfortable side effects during healing. And it could mean you could have a corrective procedure later, which isn’t always possible with surgeries that take a lot of corneal tissue. 

Breaking Down the Qualifications for Vision Surgery 

LASIK procedures are among the most widely tested outpatient procedures performed in the United States today. They are so safe, in part, because doctors choose their patients carefully. 

Ensuring that the right patients get the right procedures means fewer risks and better outcomes. Important differences between qualifications for Contoura® and Wavefront exist. 

Patient Qualifications for Both Surgeries 

Before you can schedule your LASIK surgery, you must meet these basic requirements:

  • Lower age limit: You must be at least 18 for LASIK surgeries. 
  • No eye infections or diseases: You must be free of conditions like glaucoma or infections like pink eye. If you have these conditions and can get them resolved, you might qualify for surgery.
  • Stable prescriptions: If your eyeglass or contact lens prescription changes yearly, you may not qualify for LASIK. 
  • Eye structure: Big pupils, dry eyes, and thin corneas could disqualify you. 
  • Good health: Conditions like diabetes or uncontrolled autoimmune disorders could increase your risk of complications. 

Patient Qualifications for Contoura® 

The FDA has only approved Contoura® surgeries in people with nearsightedness measured at -8.0 diopters or less and astigmatism values of -3.0 diopters or less. 

Your doctor can examine your eyes and ensure the machines can get good measurements for surgery. Mechanical issues (like eyes that are set very close together) can sometimes disqualify patients. 

Patient Qualifications for Wavefront 

If you qualify for standard LASIK, wavefront can be a good option for you. The following measurements are required:

  • 6 diopters or less of farsightedness
  • 6 diopters or less of astigmatism 
  • -12 diopters or less of nearsightedness

Contoura® and wavefront are exceptional choices for people looking to reduce their reliance on glasses and contacts. Advanced technology means you’re even more likely to get the results you want and heal as quickly as possible. 
Your doctor can tell you which option is right for you after completing a LASIK examination. Explore your options together, and you’ll decide on an approach that will change your vision for good.