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'Golden Age' of Laser Vision Correction

Date:  May 29th, 2015

Contact/Phone:  Mary Muhlbradt
(701) 857-5116 Fax: (701) 857-5683

e-mail:   Mary Muhlbradt

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Darrell Williams, MD, performs a LASIK surgery. LASIK surgery has
provided patients with an alternative to glasses and contact lenses.
(MINOT, ND) - It's been more than 15 years since laser vision correction (often called refractive laser surgery or LASIK) has provided patients with an alternative to glasses and contact lenses. And looking back, Darrell P. Williams, MD, an ophthalmologist at Trinity Regional Eyecare (TRE) - Minot Center, says two advancements stand out in his mind as having brought us to an era that could be described as a "golden age" of vision correction: blade-free LASIK using only the laser, and custom LASIK.

"It's a field that continues to improve," Dr. Williams states. "The form of LASIK that we've moved 100% to is a method that uses a laser called IntraLase to form the corneal flap, so that most patients now have a totally bladeless procedure. In addition, we're using a fourth generation Excimer laser with an advanced tracking system that follows even the tiniest movements of the eye. It adjusts 300 times each second, which greatly improves centration to keep the laser centered throughout the procedure. We also can customize individual treatment plans to provide even better visual outcomes."

Laser vision correction is a technique to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism by reshaping the cornea using a concentrated beam of light. Dr. Williams, who pioneered laser correction treatment in western North Dakota, says both blade-free and custom LASIK can best be understood by learning about each of the two steps involved in a LASIK procedure.

"In the first step we create a micro-thin corneal flap using the IntraLase, which is then lifted to expose the inner cornea. It's all blade-free now. In the second step we lift the flap and use the Excimer laser to reshape the surface of the cornea - the clear window of the eye. We then lay that flap back down, and it self-seals without suture," Dr. Williams explains.

Trinity Regional Eyecare introduced blade-free LASIK to the region eight years ago and has since incorporated the custom LASIK feature into the majority of LASIK procedures. "Most patients are candidates for the custom treatment," Dr. Williams says. "It's essentially a one-of-a kind treatment that in addition to correcting near- and far- sightedness also polishes over small abnormalities in the eye. These are little defects in the cornea that we're all born with, called higher order aberrations. The custom LASIK procedure helps make LASIK more precise. For the patient, this translates into better vision quality overall."

Custom LASIK uses a wavefront analyzer to measure the way light travels through the eye. The wavefront creates a customized 3-D map of the eye that assesses the entire optical system and provides information about the unique visual characteristics of each eye. This adds an additional level of data about the patient's vision, enabling the surgeon to further customize the vision correction.

Trinity Regional Eyecare - Minot Center is able to stay current with advancements in LASIK technology thanks in part to a decision made long ago. "We decided to rent a system rather than purchase one," Dr. Williams notes. "Consequently our system is never out of date - it's always being upgraded with the latest improvements in software."

Dr. Williams makes a point to tell patients that complications from LASIK are rare, but that there always are risks with any procedure. "Ninety percent of the time the treatment is very accurate," he says. "Ten percent of cases do heal with some residual refractive error. We then can go back and add more laser as an enhancement or touch-up. But for people who are highly motivated to reduce their dependence on glasses and contacts, LASIK has increasingly become a relatively safe and predictable option."

While most laser vision correction is performed on patients hoping to reduce dependence on glasses and contact lenses, Dr. Williams and fellow Ophthalmologist Chad Wolsky, MD, both use the Excimer laser to enhance vision following cataract surgery. In these cases a variety of innovative lenses such as Crystalens or multifocal lenses are incorporated to produce an even better result.

Whether or not a patient is a good candidate for LASIK hinges on an optometrist's exam. Dr. Shawn Nelson, a long-time optometrist at TRE - Minot Center, offers courtesy laser vision evaluations at the TRE clinic with no cost or obligation. "Patients can ask questions and have their eyes examined. It's a great service because it's free and it's educational," Dr. Williams adds.

For those who've been thinking about LASIK or are simply interested in learning more about it, Dr. Williams will offer a free seminar on laser vision correction Thursday, June 11, at 7 p.m. at Trinity Regional Eyecare - Minot Center, located in Plaza 16, 2815 16th St. SW. People may register by calling 701-TLC-EYES (852-3937). SPACE index.php