Types of Refractive Laser Eye Surgery

Baltimore, Maryland

Many people think that there is just one procedure and one technique for laser vision correction. However, this is absolutely not the case and laser eye surgery techniques have continued to evolve to the point that now, there are varying types of refractive laser eye surgery available. This gives patients the advantage of choice and makes it possible to ensure that you choose the variety of laser vision correction that most suits your individual requirements.

In order to make an informed decision, you will first need to attend a consultation with your eye doctor who will give you their recommendation. In addition, it is valuable to understand more about the different types of refractive laser eye surgery, which we have detailed for you below.


Laser in-situ keratomileusis, or LASIK, is the most commonly-known form of refractive laser vision correction and it can be used to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. The key characteristic of LASIK is the creation of a flap in the epithelium, which is the thin, outer layer of the cornea. This flap is used to access the underlying corneal tissue which is then reshaped using the laser. Once the reshaping is complete, the flap is replaced and left to heal naturally.


Photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK, was the very first form of refractive laser eye surgery and was later evolved to create LASIK. In PRK, instead of creating a flap to access the underlying cornea, the entire epithelium is removed. This reduces the risk of flap-related complications, but since the entire epithelium then needs to regenerate as part of the healing process, it can take a little longer for patients to recover.


Laser epithelial keratomileusis or LASEK is an innovative new form of laser eye surgery that combines the benefits of both PRK and LASIK. It most closely resembles PRK, but the technique avoids the total removal of the epithelium. Other key benefits of LASEK include the elimination of risk of flap-related complications as can occur with LASIK, less risk of dry eye developing, short healing time and no weakening of the cornea which makes LASEK suitable for those patients who work in positions or participate in pastimes that put them at risk of trauma to the eye.


Refractive lens exchange, or RLE, is a procedure that is commonly recommended for patients over the age of 40 who are suffering from presbyopia – farsightedness that occurs in middle and older age, or hyperopia – generalized farsightedness. It can also be a valuable option for those patients with a very thin cornea. Often these patients are found to be unsuitable for LASIK or PRK and so they are instead referred for refractive lens exchange. The procedure isn’t dissimilar to that for cataract surgery. The natural lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an artificial alternative. Although refractive lens exchange does not involve laser technology, the procedure can be combined with LASIK or PRK in order to correct astigmatism, which is when the eyeball is too long, or the cornea is irregularly shaped like a football rather than a soccer ball.

If you are suffering from refractive eye conditions and are frustrated with being reliant on glasses or contact lenses, laser vision correction could be the solution that you are looking for. Contact our offices today to find out more or to schedule your consultation with our expert eye care team.