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Twenty Questions to Ask Your LASIK Surgeon

Reviewed by

Dr. Tony Pham

Asking questions of your LASIK surgeon is a necessity. Not only do you need to know what will happen during surgery, you also need to know as much as possible about the person who performs the surgery. Since this isn’t an emergency procedure, time is on your side. Take the time to talk to two or three surgeons before deciding who is best for you.

Q1-How long have you been performing refractive surgery?
A- You’re looking for a surgeon with more than three years of experience someone who understands the procedure backwards and forwards and has encountered all of the complications.

Q2-How many refractive procedures have you performed? How many in the last year? Are you qualified to offer other procedures such as PRK, Refractive Lens Exchange or Phakic Intraocular Lenses?
A- You want a surgeon with 500 or more procedures overall; 250 or more in the last year, and at least 100 of those procedures representing the type of surgery you’ll be having. You want a surgeon who is not only experienced, but also one who has recent experience, and has stayed abreast of all the most recent advances in technique and technology. A surgeon with a wide range of skills won't limit the treatment possibilities.

Q3-What percentage of your patients receives 20/40 vision or better?
A- You’re looking for a number close to 90%, which is the national average. A 95% success rate (based on a 20/40 scale) or higher should come with proof.

Q4-What percentage of your patients receives 20/20 vision or better?
A- You’re looking for a number close to 65%, which is the national average. A 75% success rate (based on a 20/20 scale) or higher should come with proof.

Q5-What percentage of your patients report unresolved complications six months after surgery?
A- Less than 3% is the norm; less than 0.5% should represent serious complications. As with any surgery, there is an inherent risk, though with Lasik, the risks are relatively low.
Please visit Risks and Complications for a list of possible complications.

Q6-What percentage of refractive surgery candidates do you decline?
A- Not having a number isn’t a problem; if he or she says, “none,” that’s a problem. Not all patients are eligible for LASIK; therefore, a professional surgeon will turn some people away.
Please see Am I a LASIK Candidate? for LASIK eligibility and qualifications.

Q7-Have you had a successful malpractice claim? Have you settled a claim? Are there any pending lawsuits?
A- Ask for details. No one is perfect and malpractice claims will happen, but more than one in every 500 refractive surgeries should raise a flag. Lawsuits don't mean a surgeon has done anything wrong but many lawsuits should involve further investigation.

Q8-What percentage of your patients have had enhancement surgery?

A- With any surgery there are minor fixes. We’d be concerned if over 10% needed enhancements. Reason being, it may suggest a surgeon that needs experience or needs to sharpen their skills. Regardless, enhancement surgery, if needed, should be part of the package. You shouldn’t pay for enhancements.

Q9-Have you ever had malpractice insurance coverage denied?
A- “No” is the only reasonable answer. If malpractice insurance was denied, then it means the surgeon’s insurance company has concerns about their skill.

Q10-Has your license ever been revoked, suspended or otherwise restricted?
A- The answer should be – While there can be reasonable explanations as to why someone had their license revoked or suspended, it makes sense to try another surgeon.

Q11-Have you ever had hospital or surgical facility privileges revoked?
A- The answer should be – Outside of the facility being overbooked, there is no reasonable explanation as to why a surgeon isn’t able to book a facility.

Q12-Have you ever had your Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) certification revoked, suspended or otherwise restricted?
A- The answer should be – Not unlike having their license revoked, any red flag should push you to try someone else.

Q13-Have you been arrested for being under the influence of or in the possession of any controlled substance? Or ever treated for substance abuse or mental illness?
A- The answer should be – Things like an arrest can occur when people are young. You may want to listen to their story, but without serious proof, this is a risk best not taken.

Q14-Have your ever been refused participation as a provider in a health insurance plan?
A- The answer should be – Like malpractice insurance providers, it benefits the health insurance providers to have as many doctors in their network as possible. When they refuse participation to a surgeon, something isn’t right.

Q14-Is your laser equipment approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the recommended procedure? How old is your equipment?
A- All laser equipment must be FDA approved to be used in any LASIK procedure. While equipment can perform for years newer equipment is better. Surgeons may be hanging onto older equipment or buying older equipment because it's cheaper. Kick the tires on the laser equipment and ask how old that laser is.

Q15-Will you be the only doctor managing pre- and/or post-operative care?
A- The answer should be “Yes.” Don’t have surgery with an outfit that will treat you like a stranger. The same doctor should walk you through the whole procedure from start to finish.

Q16-What should I expect my vision to be like for the first few weeks after surgery?
A- The answer should include an explanation of minor fluctuations, regression, minor halos, minor starbursting, etc. These side-effects may occur, but normally resolve during the six-month healing process.

Q17-Will you perform a complete refractive exam before and after surgery?
A- The answer should be “Yes” and must be performed by an ophthalmologist. Many high volume practices will send you to an Optometrist for the refractive exams. Your surgeon should know what you’re getting into before the surgery and how you made out after.

Q18-How long, if at all, will my vision fluctuate after surgery?
A- While most people get almost instant improvement; healing and fluctuations in vision may take up to six months. Don't worry, small fluctuations are very normal.

Q19-How often and when will you perform postoperative examinations?
A- Standard procedure includes a postoperative exam one the day after surgery. Expect approximately 5-6 visits in all if there are no issues. These exams should be performed by your doctor.

Q20-Will you provide me with a copy of your written informed consent?
A- The answer is “Yes.” The consent form should be read and signed a week before the procedure.

Q21-Can I have a list of at least ten previous patients who have had the same procedure?
A- This should not be an issue. Do not expect a list of patients who will say anything bad about the surgeon, but these people can answer questions from the patient’s perspective and give you an idea of what to expect.

Q22-Will you allow me to observe a surgery?
A- The answer should be “Yes;” however, operating suite access restrictions may preclude surgery observation.

Q23-Are you certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology?
A- The answer should be “Yes.” A surgeon certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology needs to pass a written and oral examination.

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