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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
Eye laser surgery 'risky'
Eye surgery
Eye surgery can lead to problems
People who undergo laser surgery to correct short sight could experience serious eye problems in the future, a leading specialist has warned.

Professor John Marshall, professor of ophthalmology at London's St Thomas's Hospital, said patients who opt for laser surgery should be aware of the risks involved.

He warned of a number of cases where patients suffered major complications and required a cornea transplant following laser treatment.



Because this is a new treatment we do not know all of the risks

Dr David O'Bratt, Royal College of Ophthalmologists

He said more research was needed to determine whether the treatment - known as the Lasik technique - was completely safe.

The technique corrects poor eyesight by cutting through the 'fibrils' that hold the cornea together and by scraping off a third or more off the thickness of the cornea.

It has become very popular in recent years with many people choosing surgery instead of wearing contact lenses or spectacles. More than a million procedures were carried out in the USA last year.

It is offered as a 'painless' treatment which takes minutes and restores vision almost immediately.

The old technique - called PKA - was painful and left patients with blurred vision for several weeks.

Lack of testing

But Professor Marshall said the older procedure was tested for 10 years before being authorised and has proven to be safe in follow-up studies.

"The follow-up studies for Lasik have not been as good and patients should be made aware of this when they are being advised by doctors.

"PRK, Lasik and cataract surgery are among the safest surgical operations carried out. But like any surgical procedures there is a risk. More research needs to be carried out to determine the risks involved with Lasik."

He called on doctors to make patients aware of the risks of laser surgery.

Dr David O'Bratt, a consultant ophthalmologist at the same hospital and part of a team from the Royal College of Ophthalmologists appointed to draw up guidelines on laser surgery, said he believed most patients were told about the risks.

"I would say the vast majority of doctors tell patients about the risks. Because this is a new treatment we do not know all of the risks, as with any new procedure."

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See also:

07 Jun 99 | Health
Eyesight services 'inadequate'
15 Mar 00 | Health
Sunlight 'may cause cataracts'
09 Feb 00 | Health
Cataract surgery delayed
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