August 22, 2008

New remedies for post-LASIK complications

Featured Image

Jeff Sonsino, O.D., is studying a new option for patients who experience complications following LASIK surgery. (photo by Dana Johnson)

New remedies for post-LASIK complications

Patients wanting 20/20 vision without the use of corrective eyewear often undergo the most common vision correction procedure in the nation — LASIK eye surgery.

Despite a high success rate, there are a growing number of patients experiencing disruptive side effects from the surgery.

Although some can read 20/20 on the eye chart, they still experience significant vision problems. Most are able to seek solace in a contact lens that improves the visual irregularities caused by laser surgery, while others have no options.

“Reports show that LASIK patients have 2.5 to 3.5 times more irregular astigmatisms or higher order aberrations that can be corrected with standard glasses,” said Jeff Sonsino, O.D., assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at Vanderbilt Eye Institute (VEI).

“This certainly can be a quality of life issue.”

For this group of patients the irregular astigmatisms caused by LASIK — glares, halos and double vision — are unforgiving.

“In our clinic, we see patients experiencing post-LASIK complications wanting ways to fix the problems,” said Sonsino. “In many cases we are able to fit a contact lens for the patient. The lens will hold its shape and allow for the production of tears under the lens, which will smooth out any irregularities after surgery.

“But there have been times when patients cannot use lenses for several reasons. They have allergies, the environment could be too dry, much like on an airplane, they may be intolerant to lenses or for the same reason they sought LASIK in the first place — they simply are not interested in wearing contact lenses,” Sonsino said.

“What options does this population have for corrective measures?”

Because of the growing number of post-laser surgery patients coming to VEI, Sonsino initiated a trial to study another option — the effect wavefront corrective glasses have on remedying the adverse effects of LASIK surgery.

Sonsino and Anita Mahadevan-Jansen, Ph.D., associate professor of Biomedical Engineering, are taking a closer look at expanding the choices available to laser surgery patients experiencing various post-surgical complications.

The study, funded by an interdepartmental grant, will test the usefulness of a new technology in spectacle lenses to gauge visual acuity and contrast sensitivity,

Twenty post-operative LASIK patients and 20 post-operative corneal transplant recipients will be enrolled in the study, which Sonsino estimates will take up to nine months to complete.

Test subjects will be given multiple pairs of glasses — standard refraction lenses and wave front-guided refraction lenses.

“This new technology is able to tease out higher-order aberrations better than existing technology,” Sonsino said. “We can then incorporate these more sensitive measurements into the spectacle refraction.”

Subjects will undergo specialized visual acuity and contrast sensitivity testing in the clinic. Then, over a three-week period, each participant will wear a pair of glasses for one full week. Using a questionnaire, the subject will document their experiences with each set of glasses.

Sonsino said study participants, age 21 and up, must meet specific requirements for enrollment, including: having symptoms of blurred vision following LASIK or penetrating keratoplasty surgery; irregular astigmatism; and a glasses prescription that falls within a certain range.

“One thing that will come out of this study is that we will probably catch a bunch of people who don't realize anything can be done for them and we will be able to help them in some way,” said Sonsino.

“I am hoping to provide improved quality of life for those whose life has been significantly affected.”

For more information, contact Christine Franklin, clinical trials coordinator, at 936-1639.