Epi-LASIK is a type of refractive surgery, which is designed to reduce a person’s dependency on contact lenses and eyeglasses. The technique was invented by Dr. Ioannis Pallikaris, and it attempts to merge the desirable features of other major refractive surgery techniques, such as PRK, LASIK and LASEK. Epi-LASIK is believed to avoid risks associated with LASIK and offers improved postoperative recovery relative to PRK. In essence, Epi-LASIK is described as ‘an advanced type of corneal surface ablation’ employed to correct myopia, hypermetropia and astigmatism.
Epi-LASIK differs from conventional LASIK. LASIK involves cutting a flap in the cornea with a microkeratome or laser to reveal the stroma (the middle layer of the cornea). On the other hand, Epi-LASIK entails the creation of a thin flap of corneal epithelium. The epithelium is gently separated from the underlying corneal layer without cutting – quite the same procedure as what is followed during LASEK. However, as opposed to LASEK, Epi-LASIK does not make use of any alcohol solution to loosen and remove the surface of the epithelium.
Like LASEK, Epi-LASIK is more appropriate for patients who have thin corneas and are therefore not viable candidates for conventional LASIK. Once the epithelial layer is removed, the excimer laser reshapes the cornea in the desired manner so as to correct any refractive anomalies. Upon successful ablation, the epithelial flap is repositioned on the cornea. A thin soft bandage contact lens is then placed over the flap. This must be worn for several days after the Epi-LASIK surgery, in order to minimize discomfort and aid in the healing process.
Epi-LASIK holds a significant advantage over conventional LASIK in that it avoids any of the potential flap complications associated with LASIK. That is, there is no such risk as dislocated flap, folds in flap, epithelial in-growth etc. In addition, Epi-LASIK allows a more rapid visual recovery relative to PRK and LASEK.
In summary, Epi-LASIK is a technologically advanced surgical procedure, which might be useful if you have a thin cornea or some other visual anomaly that rules out conventional refractive surgery. However, it is advised that you acquire the assistance of an expert eye surgeon instead of hastily jumping on a conclusion.