Shopping for LASIK providers - what should I know?
October 20, 2010 7:09 AM   Subscribe

What to ask when shopping around for LASIK and/or PRK providers, specifically in Denver area.

So. My prescription has finally leveled off and I'm ready to be done with these horrible glasses and contacts! My eye doctor is "affiliated" with a certain LASIK/PRK surgeon, and would only recommend that provider. I would rather shop around to ensure that I'm getting the best (and most cost-effective) treatment. Please provide input on the following questions:

- First, what should I be asking each provider about their equipment to determine whether it is the most up-to-date and/or safe? My eyes are terrible, and I have astigmatism as well, so my case may be more complicated than some.

- What questions should I be asking about cost of the surgery? I am willing to spend whatever it takes, but I don't want to pay more than I have to.

- What questions should I ask about long-term care and touchups? The place recommended by my eye doc apparently has a "lifetime guarantee," but you have to go to annual appointments. Is this common?

- Any other subjects that I'm missing out on here...let me know. But keep in mind that I've already decided I want to get this done. I am aware I might need glasses later in life, or on and so forth. Please focus comments on how to pick a provider, not on the pros/cons of actually receiving the surgery.

In addition, if you have any recommendations/insights on providers in the Denver area, please let me know - especially TLC, as that is who my doc recommended.

FYI - I did find and review these, but most of the questions similar to mine are at least four years old, and I know the business has changed since then.
posted by angab to Health & Fitness (9 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The American Academy of Ophthalmology has tips on selecting an eye doctor you may find helpful. For LASIK surgery you should look for someone who did a fellowship in corneal surgery. As for equipment and techniques, the exact method is less important than that the surgeon be experienced and comfortable with it. The hospital I work for charges $3375 for both eyes or $1800 for one, including the $125 for initial evaluation. I don't really know how that compares and you are in a different part of the country, but it sound reasonable. I paid $1500/eye seven years ago. Also be wary of low cost heavily advertised providers; some of them have been accused of bait and switch tactics (telling people they are not a candidate for the cheap LASIK but there is another, more expensive option) and performing LASIK on poor candidates with a resulting high complication rate.
posted by TedW at 7:56 AM on October 20, 2010

Oops; here is the AAO link I meant to add.
posted by TedW at 7:58 AM on October 20, 2010

Not specific to lasik, but with regard to other laser procedures, you want to go to someone who's done the procedure at least 1000 times. I heard this from a dermatologist who was one of the pioneers for using a certain type of laser to remove birthmarks. I'm probably not going to be able to articulate this well and it may not apply so much to lasik as to dermatological lasers, but I think that the idea is that at first lasers don't seem to have much of a steep learning curve in actually wielding the laser, but in actuality it is choosing the proper settings that makes the difference and that is something that can only be learned through experience with numerous patients with various types of problems. It boils down to find the most experienced practitioner that you can. You don't want to be anyone's guinea pig. I'd choose more experience over newer equipment any day.
posted by kaybdc at 8:55 AM on October 20, 2010

I will ask

a) Is it reversible? Are there options I haven't considered that are reversible?

b) How about old-age? Can I do something at the time I need reading glasses?

c) Can you tell me more on how you plan to get an *ACCURATE* corneal map to guide the laser? For example, wavefront. Is it the best that money can buy? Are there alternatives I haven't considered?

d) What are the chances that we can achieve better than 20/20 vision?

Good luck! :)
posted by jchaw at 8:57 AM on October 20, 2010

And if the doctor is wearing glasses... I will ask why haven't he subjected himself to LASIK or PRK? Is he holding out for better technology and/or techniques?
posted by jchaw at 8:58 AM on October 20, 2010

If you have a flex spending account, you can use that to pay for it, which saved me about 15%. I also got a discount of another 15% or so from my health insurance company, since I used a doctor they were affiliated with, even though they don't cover the procedure. Ask about discounts for paying in full up front, and things like that.

One price should cover the initial consultation, the procedure, all follow ups (I had to go back within 24 hours, then after a week, then after two weeks, then a month, then six months, then a year. Now I'm on an annual checkup basis, so yes, that's normal.) All of these visits should be covered, as should any corrections they need to make within a year.

Ask them about transportation to and from the surgery. My doctor's office provided this for me and a companion, which was very nice.

Ask about their experience doing the surgery on people with similar eye problems to you -- not about the "standard" but with your specific problems.

Make sure you feel comfortable with the doctor. That's very subjective of course, but I think it's very important.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 9:09 AM on October 20, 2010

That "how many times have you performed the procedure" question is, in fact, perfectly relevant to LASIK; you also want to ask about their success rate and complication rate.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:26 PM on October 20, 2010

And if the doctor is wearing glasses... I will ask why haven't he subjected himself to LASIK or PRK? Is he holding out for better technology and/or techniques?

When you make your very pricey living on your corrected fine detail vision and ability to shoot lasers into other people's eyes, any level of risk towards that is unacceptable, basically-- and LASIK has risks above and beyond those incurred by just wearing glasses.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 5:29 PM on October 20, 2010

I had it done and wish I hadn't. I now have keratoconus.
posted by CodeMonkey at 12:26 PM on October 23, 2010

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