Success Rates and Effectiveness of LASIK or Is LASIK Safe

LASIK is a safe refractive procedure that is approved by the FDA in a wide number of use cases. It is widely considered a very safe eye surgery in 2022.

If you choose a reputable facility and have the surgery performed by a trained, competent surgeon, your risk of serious long-term complications is very low. The surgery also has a very high rate of patient satisfaction.

Research suggests that the average success rate of achieving 20/20 vision is 90%. However, this figure includes surgeries from outdated technologies and inexperienced surgeons.

Advanced LASIK surgery providers, like NVISION, often have success rates of 99% in achieving 20/20 vision. Some providers can even achieve 20/15 more than 90% of the time.

Is LASIK Safe?

LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is considered a safe form of refractive eye surgery. Long-term complications, where a person struggles with problems resulting from their surgery for years or the rest of their life, are rare.

In fact, serious complications are rare enough that it is difficult to find data on major complications caused by LASIK.

For example, there are no confirmed reported cases of blindness caused by LASIK. It is theoretically possible, as the procedure does involve cutting into the eye and can expose the sensitive organ to a number of known dangers, but there are no official reports of this happening.

The Impact of the Surgeon & Practice

As is true of any surgery, your surgeon and the facility where you get your procedure done can dramatically impact your overall results.

The FDA has approved LASIK, but they also note that they lack the authority to implement certain systems some have called for, including these:

Surgeons performing an eye surgery under the microscope at the hospital - healthcare and medicine concepts

  • Controlling the price of LASIK
  • Regulating a doctor’s day-to-day practice
  • Insisting on particular information being provided to a patient
  • Implementing a rating system on regulated medical devices

As long as a surgeon follows the law, the FDA cannot necessarily ensure the quality of their care. While surgery is regulated and a doctor can be sued for negligence, it is still very important to perform your own research when choosing where you receive care. Your surgeon’s expertise will be one of the most determining factors in the success of the procedure.

The FDA recommends these tips for finding the right practice and surgeon:

  • Compare your options, researching each practice’s procedures for LASIK.
  • Avoid making a choice based solely on cost. Cheaper options can sometimes be worse in quality, and expensive options aren’t necessarily always better.
  • Keep away from practices promising definitive results, such as 20/20 vision. That level of precision isn’t possible to guarantee, even if excellent visual acuity is a likely result of LASIK.
  • Read all provided materials a doctor gives you regarding the procedure before making a final choice.

LASIK Failure & Unknowns

Experts suggest less than 1 percent of people who undergo LASIK experience serious surgical complications, such as infection or dislocation of the corneal flap that is cut during the procedure. The rate of less serious long-term eye and vision complications caused by the procedure is likely higher, but still low. These symptoms could include things like light sensitivity or eye dryness.

Over 96 percent of people are satisfied with the results of their LASIK surgery, which is an extremely high rate of patient satisfaction. Of those roughly 4 percent who were not satisfied, the surgery is not necessarily considered a failure.

For example, if a patient expected 20/20 vision but their procedure instead resulted in a lower level of visual acuity, is that a failure? What if a patient achieved the level of visual acuity they desired, but now experiences difficulties with chronic dry eye?

Exact statistics on long-term complications of LASIK are unavailable. The procedure hasn’t been around long enough for a significant pool of long-term data to be gathered. The first laser for LASIK eye surgery was approved in 1998.

Senior caucasian woman having her eyes examined at the optician. Her head is placed in phoropter apparatus while middle aged male doctor is examining her retina. The woman has mid length yellow brown hair and wearing light breen blouse.

Brief History of LASIK & Relevant Innovations

The core concept behind LASIK, that the cornea might be sculpted to change its curvature, is believed to have been the idea of José Ignacio Barraquer Moner, who came up with it in 1948. In the 1960s, he performed an early version of the procedure using a manually driven microkeratome (a bladed surgical tool) and an early computer.

Over time, he invented a number of techniques and instruments to help with the procedure. Around this same period, a number of other notable experts made important contributions, including these individuals:

  • Tadeusz Krwawicz
  • Nikolai P. Pureskin
  • Luis Ruiz

As is true with most medical innovations, no single individual is responsible for the development of LASIK. Many doctors and scientists directly and indirectly innovated in ways that allowed for modern LASIK surgery to become possible.

In the 1970s, Nikolay Basov, a Soviet Nobelist, played a critical part in the development of what would become modern surgical lasers. Soon after his work came to fruition, laser eye surgery techniques were developed.

In the 1990s, Greek physician Ioannis Pallikaris would develop and write about techniques that he would eventually publish and give the modern LASIK moniker. The American FDA would formally approve the surgery in 1999.

Modern LASIK

More recently, technology has allowed for LASIK to be better customized to a patient’s eye. For example, doctors can build topographical maps of the eye so they better know how to cut to a patient’s unique features. Variable heads, ring sizes, and hinge positions on microkeratomes have allowed for surgery to become safer for patients and easier for a surgeon.

These advancements have all helped to make LASIK safer than ever before in 2022.

References

LASIK: FDA's Role. (January 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

LASIK — Laser Eye Surgery. (October 2020). American Academy of Ophthalmology.

LASIK Complication Rate: The Latest Facts and Stats You Should Know. (October 2021). Refractive Surgery Council.

LASIK Patients Report High Satisfaction Rate in FDA Outcomes Study. (February 2015). Primary Care Optometry News.

LASIK History. (April 2021). News Medical.

What Are the Risks and How Can I Find the Right Doctor for Me? (August 2018). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Nikolai Basov; Soviet Nobelist Contributed to Creation of Laser. (July 2001). LA Times.

Predictive Factors for Efficacy and Safety in Refractive Surgery for Myopia. (December 2018). PLOS ONE.

The information provided on this page should not be used in place of information provided by a doctor or specialist. To learn more, read our Privacy Policy and Editorial Policy pages.