The IntraLase® laser is the first and only laser technology approved for use in the first step of the LASIK procedure, creating the corneal flap. The level of safety and precision this bladeless LASIK delivers is revolutionizing LASIK. During traditional LASIK surgery, the surgeon first creates a flap in the cornea with a microkeratome blade, and then reshapes the cornea in a way that improves the patient's vision. IntraLASIK is an innovative new method in which the surgeon programs the desired depth and position of the corneal flap into a computer system prior to actual surgery, making the creation of the flap an incredibly safe and accurate procedure.
The IntraLase® Laser
The introduction of the IntraLase® laser has redefined the landscape of LASIK laser vision correction. The all-laser approach eliminates the need for a metal blade known as a microkeratome, and hence appeals to those who may have felt uneasy about going under the blade during LASIK surgery. This allows even more people to experience better vision.
The IntraLase® laser is a technology used to replace the metal mechanical blade microkeratome traditionally used to cut the necessary corneal flap during a laser vision correction procedure. Rather than creating a flap with a blade, the IntraLase® laser uses laser energy to make a quick, painless incision.
Laser vision correction using the IntraLase® laser was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2001. Though it is a relatively new procedure, it has already been used on more than 250,000 eyes. Since 2001, surgeons have gained invaluable experience in the use of the IntraLase® laser and have adjusted their methods accordingly to fully benefit their myopic, hyperopic, and astigmastic patients.
How the IntraLase® Laser Works
The IntraLase® laser uses quick pulses of laser energy to create the flap in the cornea needed to correct refractive errors. The computer-guided Intralase® laser quickly pulses light through the outer layers of the cornea as it moves back and forth across the eye to create microscopic bubbles at a specified depth in the eye. The bubbles under the cornea eventually create a perforation. The computer-guided laser allows the doctor to program the exact flap diameter, depth, hinge location and width, and side-cut architecture - factors that can be varied to meet patients' individual needs.
After the IntraLase® laser has finished forming the microscopic bubbles beneath the outer cornea, the surgeon is able to gently separate the perforated tissue to create a flap, allowing him or her to continue with the laser vision correction procedure.
- Reduced Complications: The use of the microkeratome is associated with the majority of LASIK complications, which occur in up to 10 percent of all LASIK surgery procedures. The most common complications include buttonhole cuts, partial or improperly formed flaps, free caps, invasive corneal incisions, corneal abrasions, and subsequently blurred vision.
- Can Treat a Wider Range of Patients: Bladeless LASIK is particularly beneficial for patients with thin or thick corneas, factors that might otherwise disqualify them for traditional LASIK surgery.
- Quick: The entire process of creating the corneal flap with all-laser LASIK takes about 30 seconds. Once the corneal flap is created, the surgeon lifts the flap to reveal a pristine corneal surface and proceeds with the laser vision correction portion of the LASIK surgery.
- All-laser approach: Only procedures that use the IntraLase® laser for creating the corneal flap can be considered all-laser LASIK.
The instances of flap wrinkling occurring during IntraLASIK procedures are markedly less frequent than with traditional LASIK. The introduction of the IntraLase® laser allows surgeons to be more precise in their treatment, enabling them to create micron-precise flaps.
It should be noted that both LASIK and IntraLASIK have certain risks in common. Following either procedure, patients may experience increased sensitivity to bright light, or halos and glare around evening lights. Dry eye may also accompany the procedure, requiring the use of drops to restore moisture. In most cases, these minor complications resolve themselves shortly after the surgery.
IntraLASIK Clinical Studies
With more than 600,000 laser eye surgery procedures safely performed, IntraLASIK is considered a safe and superior alternative to traditional LASIK, both in quality of corrected vision and accuracy of the procedure. Some of the findings from clinical studies are outlined below:
- 81 percent of laser eye surgery patients choose IntraLASIK over traditional LASIK when given the choice (Mahdavi).
- When the IntraLase® laser is used to perform the first step of laser vision correction, there are fewer complications, with more patients achieving vision better than 20/20 (Durrie, Manche, Manger, Sloan, Schallhorn/Tanzer).
- Bladeless LASIK provides for more precise vision correction (over the traditional cutting tool, the microkeratome's small blade) (Durrie, Manche, Schallhorn/Tanzer).
- The standard deviation in flap thickness is virtually halved in IntraLASIK procedures. Traditional LASIK allows for a deviation of between 20 and 40 microns in the measurement of flap thickness. With IntraLASIK technology, that range is reduced to plus or minus 11 microns, allowing the surgeon to more accurately establish the depth of the corneal flap.
- In traditional LASIK procedures, 95 percent of all complications occur during the creation of the corneal flap using the microkeratome. With the substitution of a second precision laser for the microkeratome, IntraLASIK greatly reduces the occurrence of these complications.
- In studies where patients underwent traditional LASIK on one eye and IntraLASIK surgery on the other, the patients preferred the postoperative vision of their IntraLase®-treated eye over their blade-treated eye by three-to-one.
Compared to traditional LASIK, all-laser LASIK is a more expensive procedure. The cost of IntraLASIK surgery can range anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000 for both eyes.
Search for a LASIK Surgeon
Any decision regarding the IntraLASIK procedure or the IntraLase® laser should be based upon your own unique circumstances. After a full examination by a qualified doctor, you can get a good idea of the probability of achieving your desired outcome with bladeless LASIK. Look for a LASIK surgeon in your area.