What is Epi-LASIK?
Epi-LASIK is a newer procedure using a microkeratome with a blunt plastic blade that oscillates and slides across the cornea. This similar to LASEK except that there is not any alcohol placed on the cornea. It is similar in that only the epithelium is manipulated. Epi-LASEK is different from LASIK in that a flap consists of only the epithelium as compared with LASIK where the flap consists of the epithelium, the deeper layers of the cornea and is cut with a sharp blade.
Anesthetic eye drops are instilled into the eye to prevent pain during the surgery. The microkeratome is placed on the eye. The blade removes the epithelium down to the next layer of the cornea called Bowman’s membrane. A hinge is left in the epithelium as in LASIK. The epithelium is folded over out of the way and the Exicmer laser then ablates the corneal tissue. The epithelial flap is then returned back into place. As with PRK and LASEK usually a contact lens is placed in the eye.
Post Op Epi-LASIK
You will be using antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications in the eye following the surgery. On about the fourth day after surgery the contact lens can be removed once the epithelium has healed. The vision maybe blurred the first few days. It will usually be sufficient to perform routine daily duties by the sixth or seventh day which is similar to PRK and LASEK. It may take a few months to reach the maximum level of vision.
Many doctors feel that this procedure has an advantage of less post operative pain since there is no alcohol applied to the eye as in LASEK. Many also feel that the epithelium heals faster with a more rapid return of clear vision. Since there is no cutting with the microkeratome, many feel this is an less invasive procedure. Just like PRK and LASEK, this procedure is useful in people with thin corneas who are not candidates for traditional LASIK. As with PRK and LASEK people who are at risk of trauma to the eye, this may be a safer approach. People who are in sports as jobs where risk of eye trauma is common, a non flap procedure may be preferred (racket sports, police officers, boxers, football players and etc.).