Blind World

Doctors say LASIK is proven safe.

December 06, 2004.
Channel NewsAsia.

SINGAPORE : Eye doctors say laser eye surgery is safe and effective, with less than 1 percent of patients developing complications.

So the two main public LASIK centres will continue to offer the surgery to correct short-sightedness.

The reassurance comes after London newspapers had raised concerns over the long-term safety of laser eye surgery.

In the last 12 months alone, nearly 6,000 Singaporeans had gone to public hospitals for laser eye surgery to correct myopia and astigmatism.

Given the rising popularity of LASIK, many were concerned over reports that UK is putting a 'block on laser eye surgery in Britain'.

But The Eye Institute says no one has called to cancel any surgery, and that the report is misleading.

Dr Lee Hung Ming, Head of Refractive Surgery at The Eye Institute (National Healthcare Group), said: "A little bit misleading because it gives people the impression that the British government is banning LASIK procedure all over the country.

"If you read into the report, they are trying to block the move to prevent LASIK from becoming a subsidised item under the healthcare system."

The report also quoted American Journal of Ophthalmology saying the failure rate for eye surgery was one in 10, when it is widely known to be one in a 1,000.

That figure puzzled doctors too.

Associate Professor Donald Tan, Deputy Director of Singapore National Eye Centre, said: "We have done 18,288 LASIKs since 1998 and that is a lot of cases.

"We have at present a 100 percent safety record which means no patient has developed a bad complication and who has gone blind. LASIK is probably the safest operation that we have."

Dr Lee said: "The long-term safety concern that they mentioned include the corneal ectesia, which is the progressive thinning of the cornea that can result in progressive loss of vision for the patients."

Doctors say long-term complications from LASIK, where the cornea gets progressively thinner, are rare.

But to make sure they do not happen, doctors carry out very stringent pre-operation screening.

Those with pre-existing corneal problems or thin cornea will not be operated on.

The centre says it enjoys a success rate of over 98 percent.

And in the four years since it opened, it has carried out more than 5,500 cases, and only one patient so far, has developed complications such as corneal infection.

Both the Singapore National Eye Centre and the Eye Institute say they will continue to offer laser eye surgery.

Dr Lee added: "I do not know what is their definition of a failure rate. But as in all surgical procedures, LASIK does have some side effects.

"The mild side effects are dry eyes, glare halos at night. But these are usually short-term and usually persist for three to six months. But this is mild compared to the new found freedom from the surgery." - CNA

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