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How to Choose a LASIK Surgeon

Jennifer Kimberley

It is in your best interests to choose a good LASIK surgeon if you are contemplating the procedure. Not only should the surgeon be fully qualified and highly experienced, but you would also want to feel comfortable talking with him or her, and have a high level of trust.

Collect Some Names
Given how popular LASIK has become, you may well know at least one person who has had it done. Ask your friends, co-workers and neighbors for information and referrals. Some may warn you away from certain surgeons. Most will probably rave enthusiastically. Also consult your local phone book.

Get online and google “LASIK in XXX” (your location). Study the websites, especially the pages on About Dr. [Name], Testimonials and Our Team. There’ll usually be photos of the facilities and people.

Make sure all your possible surgeons are Board-Certified. That means that the American Board of Ophthalmology has examined and certified that doctor as a qualified ophthalmologist who can practice in the U.S.

When you Have a List
Once you have narrowed your list down to the most likely-looking eye surgeons, email them from their website, or call them, to arrange a consultation. This will usually be free. You can ask each one what to expect during this time:
Does the doctor himself do the consultation? – sometimes it’s a hygienist or assistant or may be both the doctor and another person. If the doctor entirely delegates it, move on because you want a surgeon who is happy to spend time with new patients.
Does it last a set period of time? – Good to know in advance
Would my eyes be examined at all? – some doctors will take a quick look but most will have you make an appointment for a thorough exam
Is the consultation free? – sometimes there’ll be a charge that is applied to any later procedure you have

By all means take your question list with you. You can jot down brief notes on each answer (keeping the time limit in mind if there is one, or the doctor’s valuable time). If you don’t understand an answer, ask for clarification. You want to choose a LASIK surgeon who is good at explaining things, and who thinks it is time well-spent for her to do so. The best LASIK surgeons put a high value on patient education.

LASIK Consultations are two-way streets. The eye doctor will be evaluating you too, as a potential candidate. He or she may ask you about your glasses prescription and how recently you had it changed. That is because the eyes need to be fairly stable for LASIK to be effective, and because nearsightedness that is too severe would make LASIK unsafe for you. There are several ways of doing a LASIK surgery, and you might be better off with an alternative method.

Questions to Ask
You may find some of these answers on the doctor’s website before your consultation.

  • How long have you been performing LASIK? – At least three or four years.
  • How many LASIK surgeries have you performed? – At least 1,000.
  • What professional organizations do you belong to? – At least one national organization plus another state or local one. You would not want a surgeon who is isolated from his peers.
  • What percentage of your patients:

Achieve 20/40 vision or better – Should be a very high percentage.
Achieve 20/20 vision or better – Should be almost as high.
Require an enhancement procedure? – Should be a very low percentage.

  • Do you use wavefront-guided technology? Absolutely should use it.
  • Have you ever been subject to a malpractice suit? Many will say Yes, but if it is only one or two, that may not mean much, given how lawsuit-happy the population has become. If there have been five or six, perhaps you should move on.
  • Has your medical license ever been suspended or revoked for any reason? If it has, move on.

Although it’s not central, you could also ask if the surgeon has privileges at a local hospital, and if he participates in any local community activities such as coaching soccer or donating his time professionally for low-income children. Local activity makes a person locally known, which gives reassurance about trustworthiness. Donating one’s professional expertise suggests a genuine enthusiasm for what he or she does.

Look Around the Office
You might well be introduced to the staff, which can help you get a feel for how efficient and content the office seems to be. Do people seem to get along well? Do they seem tense or rushed? Are they friendly?

When you ask about the cost, make sure you are quoted a total figure. There may be separate charges for things such as:
Disposable items
Follow-up visits

Most LASIK surgeons work with a third party financing company, or with several. They offer low-interest or no-interest loans, easy terms, flexible timeframes and many choices. You can get more details from the surgeon’s financing staff member.

It would not be wise to choose your LASIK surgeon based entirely on cost. Some surgeons might be keeping their costs down by cutting medical corners or employing poorly-trained staff. For your own eye health, choose the most qualified and experienced surgeon rather than the cheapest.

Once You Have Decided …
Stick by your decision. Go ahead and trust this LASIK doctor and cooperate with what is asked of you. The best LASIK surgeons screen their patients very carefully. You may be told that LASIK would not be the best option for you, and that PRK or IntraLase, for instance, would be better.

By all means ask why, but trust the answer, as there are many variables in assessing good LASIK candidates, and the screening is for your benefit as well as the doctor’s. You would not want to have an unsafe or inappropriate surgery.

Also follow your eye surgeon’s post-operative instructions to the letter. These are designed for your best recovery and following them will shorten your recovery time and increase your chances of having no complications.

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