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Each type of LASIK requires a slightly different amount of time for the procedure, but each version of LASIK is very fast. The average patient spends less than 30 minutes in the operating room. (Learn More)
The operation and recovery times are also influenced by your candidacy for LASIK. Work with an ophthalmologist to choose the best procedure for your specific situation. (Learn More)
LASIK: How Long Does This Procedure Take Overall?
On average, laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis (most commonly known as LASIK) takes less than 15 minutes per eye. The specific timeline will vary according to the needs of the individual patient and the type of LASIK chosen.
LASIK is one of the fastest vision correction procedures available. While not everyone is a good fit for the LASIK procedure, millions of people all over the world have benefitted from this simple laser-guided method of correcting refractive errors, especially myopia (nearsightedness).
Each step of the LASIK process is quick, from preparing for the procedure to the recovery time afterward. In the rare event of complications, you may need more time to recover or to undergo a second operation. However, the chances of this happening are very slim, especially when you work with an excellent ophthalmologist and experienced laser eye surgeon.
Sometimes, side effects from a LASIK procedure can last for up to six months, including glares or haloes around lights, trouble seeing at night, or dry eyes. Again, these are rare. For the majority of people who develop these side effects, they dissipate as their corneas fully adjust to their new shape.
How Does the Type of LASIK Impact the Time It Takes?
There are a few different types of laser-guided eye surgery that fall under the LASIK category. Here is what you can expect from each of them, including recovery time:
- Traditional LASIK: The original and still the most common type of LASIK procedure uses a very small blade called a microkeratome to open the cornea. Then, a guided laser removes corneal tissue to cause this part of the eye to reshape, improving how clearly light is refracted through the eye and onto the retina.The procedure takes 15 minutes or less per eye, with an expected recovery time of around one to two days. Most people who undergo the procedure can return to work the next day, as long as they do not perform vigorous physical labor, like swimming, running, or carrying a lot of weight. These activities can cause the area to reopen, which can leave scar tissue that makes vision worse and might require another operation.You will see your surgeon within a day or two after LASIK, so they can monitor if anything has occurred that might require further attention.
- Wavefront-guided LASIK: Regardless of the type of LASIK surgery you choose, your ophthalmologist will measure your cornea and plot how the laser will reshape your cornea. However, wavefront-guided LASIK uses technology that creates a detailed map of the cornea, which can dramatically improve outcomes by providing more guidance for the laser. With a more detailed map of the cornea, vision is more likely to be clearer after the operation, and you are more likely to have a short recovery time.Similar to traditional LASIK, this procedure takes 15 minutes or less per eye. It has a similarly short recovery time, allowing most people to return to work the next day.
- Bladeless LASIK: Sometimes called topographically assisted LASIK or femto-LASIK, this procedure uses a femtosecond laser, rather than a microkeratome, to create the opening for the main laser to reshape the cornea.There is a lot of debate about how effective this operation is compared to traditional LASIK, but the outcomes may be very individual. Some people may experience more side effects after the procedure because of the light from two lasers rather than one. Others may heal faster, as the femtosecond laser works more quickly compared to the microkeratome.Ask your ophthalmologist during your LASIK screening if they think bladeless or bladed LASIK might work better for you. The procedure you choose may also depend on cost. Bladeless LASIK is a little more expensive.
- Epi-LASIK: This is a variation on LASIK that may provide better healing and less scarring since a thin applanation plate separates the corneal flap rather than alcohol. After the laser or microkeratome creates the flap to the inner part of the cornea, lifting this flap with a mechanical device rather than an alcohol solution can keep eyes healthier. This may add a few seconds to the surgical procedure itself, but it may reduce side effects for some people.
How Do You Know if You Are a Good LASIK Candidate?
- Are at least 18 years old.
- Have a stable refractive error, meaning that their glasses prescription has not changed much in the last year.
- Have no serious underlying health conditions that can change how fast their eyes heal.
- Have corneas that are thick enough for the procedure.
- Do not expect completely clear vision forever.
Most people get 20/20 vision, but 99 percent of people achieve at least 20/40 vision. This means that nearly everyone has a good outcome after LASIK.
If your refractive error changes again, or you develop a refractive error like astigmatism or presbyopia as you age, you may find that you need corrective wear like glasses again. However, it typically takes many years after your first LASIK surgery for this to possibly happen.
Typically, people choose which type of LASIK they want based on cost, access to experienced surgeons, and their ophthalmologist’s recommendation. If you are curious about what your ophthalmologist might recommend for your eyes, especially if you are concerned about how long the operation may take or how long you will heal afterward, ask them during your checkup.
Regardless of which procedure you choose, you will spend 30 minutes or less undergoing the laser surgery itself; about an hour in recovery; and about a day waiting for your eyes to heal enough for standard desk work. You cannot drive yourself home after the operation, but you should be able to drive within two days based on your surgeon’s assessment after the procedure.
What Is LASIK? (July 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Wavefront Technology: Introduction. American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
Topography-Guided LASIK Found Superior to SMILE. (August 2017). Healio Optometry.
Epi-LASIK. American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
LASIK – Laser Eye Surgery. (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
The Recovery of Optical Quality After Laser Vision Correction. (August 2013). Korean Journal of Ophthalmology.
Corneal Healing after Uncomplicated LASIK and Its Relationship to Refractive Changes: A Six-Month Prospective Confocal Study. (May 2004). Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science.