Get rid of your glasses - the easy laser way

January 4th, 2009 - 2:11 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 4 (IANS) It is the latest vision correction surgery, used even on US astronauts and military personnel. Now, the blade free laser technology, called iLasik, is attracting more and more patients in India, including many from abroad, to get rid of their glasses the easy way.In contrast to the conventional Lasik surgery that has been around for almost a decade, and requires hospital stay, the laser technology is “hassle free” and a patient can walk out in 15 minutes, say doctors.

Mahipal Sachdev, director of Centre for Sight, one of the two private institutions in the national capital that has the iLasik technology, vouches for the surgery despite its high cost - around Rs.35,000 for each eye.

“For a patient there is no dislocation in activities. It is not like a heart surgery or knee replacement, there is no hospitalisation required. A patent can walk in and walk out after the procedure,” Sachdev told IANS, assuring that it will give the patient a “20/20 vision” or perfect sight.

Among the 70-80 patients that the Centre for Sight gets a month for iLasik, many are from abroad, including non-resident Indians (NRIs). “They come for a chhutti (holiday), get the surgery done, and go back,” says Sachdev. iLasik costs around US$2,000 in India, far cheaper that the $5,000 it costs abroad, he says.

The Shroff Eye Centre, the other institution where the procedure is available, gets around 100-120 patients opting for iLasik a month, of whom 25 percent are from abroad.

Noshir Shroff, director Shroff Eye Centre, says he gets many NRI patients. “The NRI patients come for a vacation or a function and combine an iLasik surgery along with it,” he told IANS.

According to Sachdev, studies done show that the expense on contact lenses and solutions for the lenses over 10 years works out to “more than a single procedure of iLasik”.

The blade-free procedure comprises two parts - a computer-guided femtosecond laser, which is used to make the corneal flap, and the VISX excimer technology, which is used to correct the eyesight.

The femtosecond laser gives a very brief pulse, fires for one quadrillionth of a second, while creating a corneal flap. “It is a very cool laser and creates a more sophisticated flap that helps in better quality vision,” says Sachdev.

According to Shroff, the femtosecond laser helps create thinner corneal flaps, “which are very adherent and hardly ever shift”. “With the conventional blade Lasik surgery there can be complications. With the femtosecond laser there are no complications while creating the corneal flap,” he says.

Shroff says they don’t insist on patients going in for iLasik, as the conventional blade surgery has been successful. But he adds, “The newer technology is more precise, you can get precise microns of the corneal flap that a blade can’t give you. There are also different kinds of corneas, like steep cornea, thin cornea, where the blade does not work, but iLasik works to create the required flap.”

S. Venkatesh, an engineering student, is planning to go in for iLasik surgery when he comes home to Delhi for a vacation in summer. He has been to Shroff Eye Centre, got his eyes examined and enquired about the costs. “I am looking forward to when I can chuck my spectacles,” said a smiling Venkatesh, who has been wearing glasses since Class 4.

The iLasik procedure is done by the Intralase machine that costs more than Rs.10 million, with recurring costs for every procedure.

“The recurring cost on the machine per patient is around Rs.20,000, this pushes up the cost,” says Shroff. “I have been doing blade Lasik surgery since 1999 with great success, but when technology advances, you have to embrace it. And in the long run, in certain cases only this technology works.”

Another advantage is that a doctor can do as many iLasik surgeries he wants in a day.
There is no limitation regarding numbers.

“Today I am doing 10 iLasik surgeries,” said Sachdev, adding that his appointment book is full for the entire month.

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