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  Category: Articles » Health & Fitness » Health Care » Article

Will Bladeless Surgery Boost Lasik Appeal?

By Kenneth L Myers

Let's face it, going "under the knife" is not something any of us look forward to. Wouldn't it be great if you could get that Lasik eye surgery without going under the knife?

California Lasik eye surgery, which can cost thousands of dollars and usually aren't covered by insurance, grew in popularity during the 1990s but slowed amid the 2001 recession. The numbers are slowly rising again, but some patients are squeamish about having blades inserted into their eyes, experts say.

Santa Ana-based Advanced Medical Optics Inc. thinks it can move more people to have the procedures by cutting the blade out of the process.

On Monday, the company announced plans to buy Irvine-based IntraLase Corp. for $808 million. IntraLase makes a machine that allows doctors to do Lasik without a blade. I don't know about you but the though of someone putting a knife to my eyes is not the most appealing thing I can think of.

Lasik, or laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis surgery, is a two-step procedure in which a flap is cut in the cornea, traditionally with a blade. Then, a laser is used to reshape the eye so it can properly refract light.

IntraLase's technology, introduced in 2001, allows what is called an "all-laser Lasik," a more expensive procedure that now accounts for about a quarter of Lasik procedures, according to Market Scope, a St. Louis-based market research company.

How much better the results are with an all-laser procedure is still being debated, said Mark Dlugoss, editor of the trade publication Ophthalmology Times.

As most in the field agree, lasers make a more accurate cut, which leads to fewer chances of complication, Dlugoss explained. But in the decade or so that Lasik surgeries have been around, doctors and blades have improved as well.

However marginal or significant the advantages of laser, the technology is still convincing to patients who are skittish about having sharp metal objects drawn to their eyes, even if in the hands of doctors, Dlugoss said.

"It is definitely a selling point," he said.

For Dr. Roger Steinert's patients, it already is the standard.

"Within a few years, you won't see [blades] anymore," said Steinert, one of the nation's pioneers in Lasik surgeries and a professor of ophthalmology at UC Irvine and director of its UCI Refractive Surgery Center, which has offices in Orange and Irvine.

Lasik surgeries cost on average $1,950 per eye, according to Market Scope. An all-laser procedure adds $400 for each eye.

"Most patients realize that when your eyes are at stake, this is not the time to look for the blue-light special," said Steinert, who added that when he started using IntraLase three years ago, many of his patients who were once skittish about Lasik decided they were now ready.

The bottom line is that the world Lasik eye surgery is changing and California eye surgery is on the cutting edge, if you pardon the expression.
About the Author
Kenneth L Myers

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