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Wavefront-LASIK (Custom LASIK): Uses, the Procedure & Who Is a Candidate

Wavefront LASIK is considered the most advanced type of LASIK technique available. This is a custom method that helps your surgeon correct individual vision issues with personalized effectiveness.

Wavefront enables surgeons to measure the specific imperfections of each person’s eye to a degree that was previously impossible. These precise measurements are translated into a 3-D map and used to perform an extremely accurate vision correction procedure.

What Is Wavefront or Custom LASIK?

Wavefront and custom LASIK are the same thing. This progressive system uses the highest resolution of laser technology for maximum vision correction. 

Visual correction is measured in diopters. The greater the diopter, the greater the precision possible. For instance, traditional LASIK can measure and correct to 0.25 diopters, but wavefront LASIK can measure and correct to 0.01 diopters. 

Because of this change in precision, wavefront LASIK offers individuals a chance to see more clearly and crisply than previous technology did.

Conditions Treated With Wavefront LASIK

Wavefront LASIK offers a way to correct eye conditions and eliminate imperfections that go beyond common conditions of myopia, astigmatism, and hyperopia.

Smaller size imperfections can cause people to have vision issues, such as glares, distortions, ghosting images, halos, or decreased nighttime vision.

With wavefront technology, surgeons can diagnose and treat conditions with a much higher degree of precision than was previously possible. 

Benefits of Wavefront

There are distinct advantages of wavefront LASIK since it can measure and treat visual imperfections that were previously not even detected.

Advantages of wavefront LASIK include the ability to do the following:

  • Treat night-vision disturbances
  • Enhance visual quality and contrast sensitivity
  • Achieve greater than 20/20 vision
  • Achieve 20/20 vision without reliance on prescription eyewear
  • Reduce chances of post-LASIK side effects

VISX CustomVue WaveScan

The VISX WaveScan system was the first custom laser approved by the FDA to treat nearsightedness and astigmatism. 

The system is made up of a WaveScan wavefront device and the Star S4 Laser. It makes it possible for surgeons to measure and treat visual problems that could not even be detected with earlier technology.

The FDA conducted clinical trials where 94 percent of the participants achieved 20/20 vision or better. 

How Custom LASIK works

Wavefront-guided LASIK uses LASIK technology to create a 3-D map of the eye, called a wavefront map. This digital map shows large and small imperfections in the eye. 

The large imperfections often lead to nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The smaller imperfections can include spherical aberrations, trefoil, quatrefoil, and coma. These are often called higher-order aberrations

During the procedure, the surgeon maps the eye structure. This is a customized map personalized to the eye’s anatomy. 

The topographical map gets downloaded to a precision laser system that the surgeon uses to navigate during the surgery. Due to this high degree of precision, the treatment is extremely accurate.

Who Is a Candidate?

Candidates for wavefront LASIK include people who are 21 or older, have a stable prescription for a year or more, and meet other medical criteria. 

Candidates for LASIK should not have corneal scars, keratoconus, or any autoimmune disease. People who are pregnant or breastfeeding are typically advised to wait until their hormone levels have returned to normal. 

Wavefront LASIK vs. Standard LASIK

While standard LASIK commonly gives patients 20/20 vision, wavefront LASIK can potentially give a higher percentage of patients 20/20 or better vision.

While standard LASIK can correct to the same level that patients generally achieve with corrective lenses, like glasses or contacts, wavefront LASIK may be able to offer greater correction than this. This is done by using a wavefront aberrometer

Wavefront technology enables surgeons to correct finer imperfections and achieve a higher level of vision clarity. 

With this higher level of precision, surgeons can measure and treat finer aspects of vision. They can potentially improve night vision, reduce halos and glare, and improve the crispness of images.

Types of Wavefront LASIK

Wavefront technology creates a 3-dimensional map of the eye’s anatomy and irregularities. It is an advanced method to measure what is going on in the eye. The technology helps your surgeon evaluate the subtle distortions in the eye before surgery. 

The surgery is sometimes described as wavefront-guided, wavefront-optimized, or topographic

  • Wavefront-guided: This is considered an advanced technique to create a 3D image of your eye, correcting refractive problems and minimizing any problems during the surgery. 
  • Wavefront-optimized: This technique measures the cornea and corrects for imperfections known as spherical aberration. This also minimizes any problems from LASIK surgery. 
  • Topographic maps: These are technical blueprints that are fed into the computer system to guide your surgeon. The maps enable extreme precision in the surgical procedure. 

Some centers call it UltraLASIK, custom LASIK, or Accu-wave LASIK, but they all describe the same kind of wavefront LASIK surgery.

The Custom Procedure

According to Stanford Health, this is a fast and safe procedure. 

The initial evaluation in many clinics is free of charge. This is where you’ll find out if the treatment is suited for your condition. 

The pre-visit exam includes corneal mapping, a dilated eye exam, and measurements. 

The actual procedure usually only takes about 10 to 15 minutes. The surgeon will use the wavefront system to transmit a safe light ray into your eye. The light gets reflected off the back of your eye, through the pupil, and onto the device. 

This gets translated into specific measurements for a 3-D depiction of your eye, showing any imperfections. This is the wavefront map.

After creating the map, the information gets transferred electronically to the laser. Using extreme precision, the surgeon can customize the LASIK procedure for your personalized requirements.

You will be awake during the procedure. Typically, your eyes will be anesthetized with numbing eye drops. Plan on having someone with you to drive you home, as you should not drive immediately following the procedure.

Recovery From Custom LASIK

Recovery from custom LASIK is similar to recovery from standard LASIK. It is quick and only takes about a day or two before you can return to normal activities.

You will likely see much more clearly immediately following the surgery, but you may experience blurriness and sensitivity to light. Your vision will continue to clear throughout the first week or so. 

It’s recommended that you rest the day of the procedure. You may be given an eye shield to prevent rubbing or scratching your eyes while you sleep. Treat your eyes with care in the days and weeks following LASIK.

Costs of Wavefront LASIK

Wavefront LASIK is more expensive than standard LASIK due to the advanced technology and higher level of precision involved. Not all surgeons are trained and experienced in custom LASIK, so you can also expect to pay more for that expertise.

According to a 2021 report in Clinical Ophthalmology, the average cost of LASIK surgery in the United States was $2,632 per eye. Prices vary across the country from between $1,000 and $4,000 per eye. 

At Stanford University, the cost for custom wavefront LASIK is $2,950 per eye, putting it a few hundred dollars more per eye than standard LASIK.

Prices vary across the country and according to surgical expertise and equipment, so check with clinics in your area for more precise cost estimates.

Wavefront LASIK FAQs

What is wavefront LASIK?

Wavefront LASIK is a custom technology to improve vision correction procedures, offering very precise results. 


Is wavefront LASIK the best?

Wavefront LASIK provides a higher level of precision compared to traditional LASIK methods. Because of this, some people view it as the best form of LASIK.

What is the difference between traditional LASIK and wavefront LASIK?

Traditional LASIK corrects refractive errors to the degree that you can achieve correction with prescription glasses. Wavefront LASIK offers a higher degree of precision, making it possible to correct smaller imperfections. This enables surgeons to optimize vision, such as improving night vision quality.

Is custom LASIK best?

Custom or wavefront LASIK can offer more precise results, using more advanced technology. Custom LASIK may be able to better correct higher order aberrations than standard LASIK, but the vast majority of people are also satisfied with the results of standard LASIK.

References

  1. Wavefront-LASIK (Custom LASIK). Stanford Healthcare.

  2. Wavefront-LASIK (Custom LASIK). Stanford Healthcare.

  3. Frequently Asked Questions. Wilmer Eye Institute.

  4. The FDA’s LASIK Program. Federal Drug Administration (FDA).

  5. Refractive Eye Surgery: Helping Patients Make Informed Decisions About LASIK. (May 2017). American Family Physician.

  6. Refractive Errors. American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  7. Comparison and Analysis of FDA Reported Visual Outcomes of the Three Latest Platforms for LASIK: Wavefront Guided Visx iDesign, Topography Guided WaveLight Allegro Contoura, and Topography Guided Nidek EC-5000 CATz. (November 2017). Clinical Ophthalmology.

  8. Intraoperative Wavefront Aberrometry: Wave of the Future? American Academy of Ophthalmology.

  9. Wavefront Technology. Medical Dictionary.

  10. LASIK – FAQs. Federal Drug Administration.

  11. The 25th Anniversary of Laser Vision Correction in the United States. (March 2021). Clinical Ophthalmology.

  12. Stanford University Fees. Stanford Medicine.

Last Updated September 7, 2022

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