LASIK eye surgery is constantly evolving technologically. While this may add more choices to the prospective LASIK patient, it can also become confusing as to what method of surgery to choose. This article seeks to examine the similarities and differences of conventional and wavefront (or Custom) LASIK.

Wavefront LASIK and traditional LASIK have their similarities. After all, both aim for the same end result: vision improvement. Thus, they both use excimer lasers, they both make flaps on the eyes in order to reach the underlying tissue to be operated on, both modify the cornea’s shape by eliminating the interfering tiny pieces that distorts the vision, and both use instruments to make extremely precise cuts.

While both work under the same principles, wavefront LASIK does have certain advantages. This new technology measures the landscape of the eye to get an accurate three-dimensional map. The information gathered by the LASIK wavefront technology will be transmitted to the laser instrument, increasing its precision upon operation.

LASIK vision correction can correct two types of eye problems, namely:

1. Lower order aberrations. These are mainly errors in the eye’s refraction. Conventional LASIK surgery can be used to correct these problems. Among the eye problems under this category are astigmatism, nearsightedness, and farsightedness.

2. Higher order aberrations. These can only be measured with wavefront analysis. Higher order aberrations are not caused by errors in refraction and thus cannot be corrected by glasses, contacts, or even traditional LASIK. Wavefront LASIK, on the other hand, has the ability to correct these eye problems which include starbursts, difficulty seeing at night, and light halos.

There is also the question of amount versus the quality of one’s vision. Amount is defined as how much a person sees. For example, the 20/20 assessment given to those who have perfect vision is an evaluation of how much he or she can see. Problems regarding the amount of vision are caused by lower order aberrations.

On the other hand, the quality of vision is how well a person is able to see. For example, some people can’t see a subtle contrast between color hues. These are part of higher order aberrations and can be corrected by wavefront LASIK.

The performance of a wavefront LASIK procedure has several steps. First, the LASIK physician will send a ray of laser light into your eye. This light will then be reflected by the retina, which will then be received by the wavefront system. Then, the software interprets inconsistencies in the ray of light as variations in the eye’s landscape. It will then display a three-dimensional map of the eye on the computer’s monitor, thus enabling the LASIK surgeon to tailor-fit the procedure according to your eye’s specific landscape. This landscape is extremely accurate; mapping and measuring every subtle and minute detail. By utilizing this precise technology prior to LASIK surgery you increase your chances for a more favorable outcome.

Once the eyes landscape is mapped and existing aberrations are determined the doctor can then tune the computer that controls the refractive laser. This can create a wavefront-guided ablation for Lasik, Epi-Lasic, LASEK, or PRK. This is important, as the wavefront landscaping can determine whether traditional ablation would be sufficient, wavefront guided ablation is necessary, or whether LASIK surgery is appropriate at all.

Wavefront LASIK technology is relatively new to us in the United States. First approval for its use was not until 2002, by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As is natural with hot new technologies, wavefront LASIK costs are higher when compared to conventional LASIK methods. As this new technology becomes more prevalent and more widely available we should see reduced pricing.

Wavefront measuring methods can not only result in a higher quality of vision, but also offer fewer LASIK side effects when compared to its traditional counterparts. It’s important to understand, however, that wavefront LASIK isn’t for everyone, so check with your ophthalmologist to see if wavefront LASIK is right for you.