Excimer laser eye surgery

What is excimer laser surgery?

Excimer laser surgery (photo refractive keratectomy or PRK) involves using a laser, which is computer controlled to reshape the cornea (the clear surface of the eye in front of the pupil). The surgery is carried out by a consultant ophthalmologist and is designed to treat imperfect vision (refractive errors).

Until recently only myopia (short sight) and mild astigmatism (uneven shaped cornea, which is more steeply curved in one direction than the other) could be treated. However, thanks to improved laser technology, hyperopia (long sight) and more acute astigmatisms are now routinely treated. PRK has been available in the UK since 1991, and since that time more than 1,000,000 patients have been treated worldwide.

Your consultant ophthalmologist will advise if excimer laser surgery is suitable for you. This treatment may not be possible for patients with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or lupus (a disease affecting the immune system).

How does excimer laser surgery work?

Excimer laser surgery is quite straightforward, and takes approximately 30 minutes, although actual laser time takes a matter of seconds, depending on the level of visual disorder that needs to be corrected. Once the computer-controlled laser has been programmed with the exact degree of vision to be corrected, you will lie on a reclining chair and your eye is anaesthetised with eye drops. Once you’re relaxed, the procedure will start and you shouldn’t experience any pain. Afterwards your eye will be bandaged to protect it from infection.

For more information, and if you have any queries about the procedure, speak to your consultant.


You should be able to go home the same day after surgery. Remember, you will not be able to drive for up to one to two weeks after surgery. You’ll be given medication to take at home, plus anti-inflammatory eye drops to be taken during the week after the operation.

Depending on the exact laser technique used, recovery time can be anything between two days and a week, possibly even longer.

For further information, speak to your consultant.

Paying for your operation

The costs of excimer laser surgery are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.

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