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Automated Lamellar Keratoplasty (ALK)

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If you are dependent on glasses or contacts to see clearly, you may consider some form of surgical vision correction to restore clear sight. With so many procedures available, how can you know which one is the right one for you? The first step is to schedule an examination with your ophthalmologist and then based on your test results, he or she can make a recommendation.

From RK and ALK to PRK, LASIK and implantable lenses, there are many, many choices for vision correction. Let’s take a look at just one of the options, Automated Lamellar Keratoplasty (ALK).

Before Surgery
Like any vision correction procedure, you must undergo a series of tests to ensure that you are a medical candidate for the procedure. You should plan to spend two hours or so in your ophthalmologist’s office to undergo a complete examination including your medical history, current refraction, corneal thickness measurements and pupil dilation. The results of these tests, along with others your doctor may recommend, will determine if you are a good candidate for ALK.  ALK is appropriate those with severe myopia or nearsightedness or mild hyperopia, or farsightedness.

Also, if you wear contacts, you will be asked to remove them for a period of time before your surgery. If you wear rigid lenses, you will be asked to wear only your glasses for three weeks. If you wear soft lenses, you’ll be asked to leave them out for three days before your procedure.

How It Works
The first portion of the ALK procedure is similar to LASIK in that an instrument called a microkeratome creates a flap in the upper layers of the cornea. The flap is folded back and then treatment to correction your vision begins. To treat nearsightedness with ALK, the microkeratome is used again to remove a thin layer of the cornea and then the flap is replaced. To correct farsightedness, the flap is just replaced and no other portion of the cornea is removed. Because the cornea steepens when the flap is replaced, even without further treatment, farsightedness is reduced. Healing time for both types of correction is typically 24 hours.

Advantages and Disadvantages of ALK
The disadvantages of ALK include the fact that it is not as accurate as other, more advanced vision correction procedures. There is also a possibility of creating irregular astigmatism with the treatment. On the plus side, the healing period is quick – usually within 24 hours and is relatively comfortable for the patient.

Side Effects
All vision correction procedures carry certain risks and while complications are rare, you should know what they are. The following side effects are possible but not probable.

  • Infection
  • Glare
  • Corneal scarring
  • Overcorrection or undercorrection
  • Inability to wear contacts, sometimes permanently

In the progression of vision correction procedures, ALK came into being in the late eighties after Radial Keratotomy (RK). While it’s not performed much anymore, there are still cases for which an ophthalmologist might recommend ALK. If you’re interested in correcting your vision with a vision correction procedure, contact your ophthalmologist to ascertain your options.

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