For the uninitiated, choosing a competent vision correction surgeon can be a daunting task. The critical components for choosing a qualified professional in this field include experience, training, technology, and practice situation. Let us look at each of these qualifications individually.

Experience:

It is ideal to choose someone who has performed, at minimum, over a thousand vision correction surgeries. Regrettably, however, many surgeons will not be forthright about their experience. One local surgeon who recently started doing LASIK states that he has performed over 10,000 LASIK procedures—but it turns out these are simple cataract and eye muscle procedures, and this is never disclosed to the patient. A prospective patient needs to ask the surgeon how many times he or she has performed the specific procedure the patient is interested in having done.

Training:

The professional ideal is a fellowship-trained corneal and refractive surgeon who has spent a year of additional training (over and above general ophthalmology training) and who does refractive surgery full-time. Most refractive surgeons learn about these procedures in a weekend course; I teach many of these. They then perform surgery as a part-time endeavor, spending the majority of the time dealing with general ophthalmology issues such as basic eye exams, glaucoma, eyelid problems, red eyes, retinal problems, crossed eyes, and children’s eye problems, rather than focusing on refractive surgery as a career. As a result, in those unfortunate instances when patients have complications after undergoing surgery with less experienced surgeons, patients are obliged to seek out seasoned, full-time surgeons like myself for “repairs.”
For example, I had a patient who had LASIK for monovision (a technique where one eye is set for distance vision and the other is set for reading vision) performed on the wrong eye by a weekend-course trained, part-time LASIK surgeon! The cost to repair the damage was twice what he originally paid with the other surgeon.

Next week we’ll follow up with part two to How to Choose a Vision Correction Surgeon  where we will discuss Technology and Practice Situation.