How do we know LASIK works? It’s science!
If you’re considering LASIK, you’ve no doubt asked yourself important questions: Is it safe? Is it effective? Is it right for you? Maybe you’ve already asked the same questions of your LASIK surgeon. If not, you should.
Here’s another question that might be on your mind – when your surgeon responds to those questions, how does he or she know what to tell you?
The answer is science. LASIK, like all other medical procedures, drugs, and medical devices, is the subject of extensive research. The research – we call it “clinical research” – is carefully designed to tell us whether medical treatments work, how well, and for what kinds of patients.
How does clinical research work?
Clinical research is a scientific medical exploration or investigation into the performance of a drug, medical device or treatment regimen with the primary goal of determining whether it is safe and effective for patients. It is conducted over an extended period of time – months and sometimes years – by scientists. The reports of these studies are incredibly detailed, running 20 to 100 pages or more.
The research begins with a hypothesis. A hypothesis is an educated guess about the treatment and its ability to provide a certain benefit. Research is then conducted to test whether the hypothesis is true or false. Research can take many different forms, but essentially data is collected, analyzed in the context of the hypothesis and then the findings are reported. The findings of clinical research determine which drugs, devices and treatments are approved for use and often compares them to previously approved treatments. Importantly, clinical research serves to build our knowledge about prevention, treatment, and diagnosis.
LASIK has been the subject of a tremendous amount of clinical research. In fact, LASIK is one of the most studied elective procedures performed today. More than 9,000 patients participated in FDA clinical trials alone from 1993-2005. Over time, a tremendous amount of clinical research into LASIK has been conducted – to date more than 7,000 peer-reviewed published studies, in fact – to confirm the procedure is both safe and effective as well as look into other important aspects of LASIK. This includes studies that help refine what makes a patient a good or bad candidate for the procedure, and techniques and technologies that can reduce the potential for side effects such as dry eye, glare and halos.
Clinical studies have tested the many improvements in LASIK since the procedure was first approved. In medicine, technologies and techniques evolve and advance over time. LASIK is no different. Today’s excimer lasers – the lasers that reshape the cornea to improve vision – are more precise and easier to work with than earlier models. Newer lasers and technologies are able to customize the procedure to the specific shape and thickness of a patient’s cornea and treat a broader range of vision impairments. All of these advances lead to better visual outcomes and a safer procedure for more people.
Research doesn’t just answer your questions – it answers ours as well. The clinicians – the scientists – who work with LASIK are committed to an ongoing process of improvement in the procedure. We continually ask questions as a means of finding potential in LASIK. There is a reason “quest” is the root of the word “question.” This illustrates that scientific exploration is a process, a path – not necessarily a destination. The question is the beginning, not the end.
It is important to understand what clinical findings say – and what they don’t. This can be difficult, because news stories about new clinical studies often grab a dramatic headline, but miss the details and the nuance that are part of every research report. No one study has a final, definitive answer about any medical treatment, device, procedure or drug. By definition, a study has a very specific scope – a specific question it is trying to answer. While the results of a single study can be compelling, interesting and encouraging, they are only a piece of a bigger and growing body of science. This is why you have to be cautious about any reporting that describes dramatic conclusions from a single study.
In the case of LASIK, there is tremendous confidence, based upon an extraordinarily large amount of clinically-based evidence, that the procedure is safe and effective. It isn’t perfect, because nothing is. However, it ranks among the most thoroughly investigated, most effective and safest procedures performed today.
To find out more about LASIK, start here. Then contact us, so we can start a conversation about what LASIK can do for you.