Everyone has heard of laser eye surgery with most people equating this to LASIK. But there are a number of refractive surgery procedures other than LASIK, all with the aim of correcting the vision and reducing dependency on glasses and contact lenses. One such technique is known as small incision lenticule extraction, or SMILE eye surgery.
What is SMILE Eye Surgery?
SMILE was first performed in 2006 following the introduction of the femtosecond laser by Zeiss, a German medical technology company.
One of the greatest benefits of SMILE laser eye surgery is that it is minimally invasive, which greatly reduces potential complications. The femtosecond laser is used to create a precisely shaped sliver of tissue within the cornea, called a lenticule. Once the lenticule has been formed it is extracted through a keyhole incision less than 4mm wide.
As the cornea is the transparent dome of tissue at the front of the eye responsible in part for the bending, or refraction, of light entering the eye, changing the shape of this structure redirects light as it passes through. The aim is to bend light in such a way that it focuses to a clear point on the retina at the back of the eye, therefore providing clear vision without needing optical aids.
Compared to other surgical techniques such as LASIK and PRK, SMILE eye surgery involves less manipulation and disturbance of corneal tissue, which minimises risks and improves recovery time.
These factors also make SMILE a more suitable procedure for certain types of people, including:
- Those with pre-existing dry eye, a common side effect of other refractive surgery techniques
- Those who play contact sports or work in environments with risk of trauma, as the SMILE technique leaves the cornea more structurally intact
- Those who can’t afford a long recovery time
SMILE laser eye surgery is most appropriate for treating short-sightedness, also known as myopia, and can be suitable even for myopic prescriptions into the double digits. It may also be applied to prescriptions with astigmatism. At this point in time, patients with hyperopia (long-sightedness) or presbyopia (the natural age-related decline of near focus) will be more suited to another refractive surgery technique, such as LASIK or refractive lens exchange.
What to Expect Before, During, and After SMILE Laser Eye Surgery
The idea of any procedure on the eyes can be a daunting one. Prior to entering the operating theatre, you will have a comprehensive consultation to rule out anything that makes you unsuitable for refractive surgery, such as a pre-existing eye disease that could limit your final visual outcome. It is also necessary to take certain measurements required for calculating the shape and location of the lenticule.
During the procedure, the eye will be numbed with topical anaesthetic eye drops. Patients typically do not undergo general anaesthesia but a mild sedative can be administered if you’re feeling particularly anxious. With the eyelids held open, you are required to fixate on a target light as the femtosecond laser does its work and the lenticule is removed through the keyhole incision. The surgical procedure itself takes only a few minutes per eye, with the total time spent on the operating bed being only about 20 minutes.
After the procedure, you will be given post-operative instructions and a review appointment organised for you. Most patients find they can drive and return to work within a few days after surgery. Though vision can take a few weeks to fully stabilise, the majority of patients notice they can see quite clearly the day immediately after the procedure.
Although the minimally invasive nature of SMILE gives it an excellent safety profile, any surgical procedure comes with risks and the potential for complications. For SMILE, such complications include:
- An increase to glare sensitivity, such as distracting haloes around lights at night time
- Inflammation or infection of the treated eye
- Debris accumulating in the area from where the lenticule was removed
- Over or under correction of the prescription
If the dimensions of the lenticule are miscalculated, the script of the eye may be inaccurately corrected by SMILE and require retreatment, typically with PRK.
SMILE eye surgery is a good option for getting rid of the need for constant glasses or contact lenses and may even be a suitable technique for certain people who have been told they are ineligible for other types of refractive surgery. Its minimally invasive nature has made it known as a quick and safe procedure with excellent visual outcomes.
Call us today at 1300 297 583 for a consultation