Is Lasik Surgery Safe?

Every year millions of people pay good money for perfect vision through laser and Lasik eye surgery. Promising to eliminate the need for glasses and contact lenses, doctors nationwide market Lasik corrective eye procedures like retailers market mobile phones - the newest technology at the lowest price. Unfortunately, many Lasik patients are discovering they got just what they paid for.

What is Lasik?

Lasik is an outpatient medical procedure intended to correct imperfect vision by removing tissue from the cornea with a laser. The top portion of the eye is cut to create a flap of tissue, exposing the cornea. A laser is used to remove corneal tissue, reshaping the cornea's focusing power to help improve the patient's vision. The corneal flap is then laid back into place to allow the eye to heal.

Despite most people's positive perception of Lasik, there are a growing number of vocal critics. Dissatisfied patients and professionals hope to warn potential patients of the risks associated with the procedure and expose facts the Lasik industry adamantly denies.

One such critic is Morris Waxler, PhD, who was head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) branch charged with reviewing the first Lasik clinical trials. Under his watch, the FDA approved Lasik in the 1990s. However, after reexamining the Lasik clinical trial data, Waxler is now a leading critic of the procedure. Specifically, he cautions that what Lasik providers call "side effects" are really an "epidemic of permanent vision problems."

Waxler says 40 percent of Lasik recipients still need glasses and contact lenses after the procedure. He also points to data showing more than 50 percent of Lasik patients have post-surgery vision problems. Eighteen percent suffer from complications such as blurriness, seeing halos and starbursts around lights, chronic dryness, and diminished night vision.

These problems persist even with the use of "new" Lasik technology, begging the question: whose job is it to police the Lasik industry?

Asking the FDA to Regulate Lasik

The FDA claims that while it has authority to regulate the sale and use of medical devices such as the lasers used in Lasik surgery, it does not have the authority to regulate a doctor's practice.

Nonetheless, Waxler filed a citizens petition urging the agency to tighten regulation of Lasik procedures to address high failure rates among recipients. Although the FDA has recently issued warnings to nearly 20 Lasik surgical centers regarding inadequate adverse event reporting systems, it is unlikely the agency will go to the lengths Waxler is suggesting.

Holding the Industry Responsible

If Lasik "side effects" are really permanent vision problems, shouldn't doctors who negligently perform these procedures be held liable for the damage caused? At this point, proponents of Lasik continue to hide behind patient waivers and the shroud of Lasik's purported "side effects."

Because the procedure is relatively straightforward, some people fear that recommending Lasik surgery is becoming routine - but poor preparatory or post-operative care, inattention during surgery, improper adjustment of the treatment chair, and recommending Lasik to patients who are poor candidates are some of the things that lead to negative outcomes and serious injury.

One patient related that assistants did all of the preoperative work and that during the 10 minutes he actually saw the doctor, the doctor bragged that he was so good at Lasik "he didn't need to pay attention." The doctor did not properly adjust the chair until he'd finished the patient's right eye - the one in which the patient now sees double and triple images.

In cases such as this, Lasik patients should turn to making a legal claim for compensation against negligent Lasik surgery so that serious injury can be properly addressed.

Successful Lasik Lawsuits

Some Lasik patients have been successful in recovering significant amounts of money for lost wages and pain and suffering from procedures gone wrong. For example:

  • In 2009, a jury awarded a patient $5.6 million
  • In 2008, a jury awarded a patient over $1 million
  • In 2005, a patient received a $7.5 million award

Juries and courts are clearly not brushing aside the claims of injured patients who have been the victim of Lasik malpractice.

Contact Smiley & Smiley, LLP

If you have undergone a Lasik procedure and suffer from any vision complications as a result, call 212-986-2022 or  contact Smiley & Smiley, LLP online. We are medical malpractice attorneys with experience pursuing claims of medical malpractice against doctors who negligently perform Lasik surgery.