Find a "Special" Doctor
Find out what the doctor's primary specialty is. Although not required, it not a bad idea to look for a LASIK surgeon who completed a "corneal fellowship" or a "refractive surgery fellowship." Also, he or she needs to be board-certified in their specialty. Your surgeon should have specialized training in refractive surgery.
Ask About Available Procedures
Compare procedures offered by different LASIK surgeons. Does the surgeon normally perform traditional LASIK or does he or she offer Intralase, a new form of LASIK advertised as a "bladeless procedure"? Ask the surgeon why he or she performs one type of procedure over another. Also ask what other procedures are available for your particular eyes.
Discuss Possible Risks
Look for surgeons that explain possible outcomes very clearly. Your surgeon should be able to explain why a certain person may not make a good candidate for the procedure. Also ask them what their financial policy is if you need a second procedure after the initial LASIK procedure.
Beware of 20/20 Promises
Steer clear of LASIK centers that promise perfect 20/20 vision. Although most patients receive close to 20/20 vision, a doctor cannot guarantee this because it depends on several factors. In addition, the type of prescription you start off with determines the benefit you may receive.
Make Sure You Feel Comfortable
Look for a surgeon that you feel very comfortable with. Bedside manner is important in every specialty: You need to be able to ask questions that are of genuine concern to you. A doctor that appears too pompous or too busy to discuss certain things with you may not be your best choice.
Talk to Satisfied (and Unsatisfied) Customers
Ask your potential surgeon for the names and numbers of previous patients. Most surgeons usually have some patients that have signed privacy release forms for this purpose. Discussing the procedure with a former patient often relieves a lot of the anxiety associated with the surgery and may reveal pros or cons about the doctor.
Discuss Postoperative Care
Ask the LASIK surgeon what type of postoperative care you will receive. This is a very important part of your procedure. It is best to find a surgeon who practices in your area full-time. Avoid a LASIK center who brings in outside doctors to do your procedure or practices only part of the time in your area. It is also important to have a good relationship with your primary care ophthalmologist or optometrist for pre-operative care and ongoing postoperative care.
Look for Recent Technology
Finally, surgeons that participate in clinical studies with the government or academic institutions are more likely to be cutting-edge and invest in high technology. They are usually more detail-oriented and thus more meticulous when performing surgery. You may also check to see if he or she is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, another credential of a respected doctor.
Once you narrow down your list of possible surgeons for your LASIK procedure, schedule an appointment with each one. Your first introductory or evaluative appointment is extremely important. Make a list of questions you may have, including the information listed above. In addition, the Eye Surgery Education Council offers a printable list of "Tough Questions for Doctors." Remember, your choice of doctor is even more important than the devices used for your surgery. No amount of technology can compensate for an inferior doctor.
Source: Eye Surgery Education Council, "LASIK." EyeSurgeryEducation.com, 2003.
Eye Surgery Education Council, "LASIK." EyeSurgeryEducation.com, 2003.