Well, it finally happened. I have been working for almost 10 years on the next big advance in laser vision correction, and it just got approved by the FDA for patients in America. During this long development, and over the last several years the technology was approved in virtually all the rest of the world, and as a result, there now have been over 600,000 procedures performed. That’s a lot of procedures and should help ease the minds of anyone who is concerned about trying something new.
So what is this new procedure? It is called, somewhat cryptically, ReLEx SMILE. It really could be called either, but Zeiss, who is behind the brainy people that invented this technology, wanted to use both names. ReLEx stands for refractive lens extraction, and SMILE means small incision lenticule extraction. So what is this all about?
Here it is in a nutshell. Most have heard of LASIK, where a corneal flap is made, with either a blade or a laser, and then after peeling back the flap, the inner surface of the cornea is treated with another type of laser, an excimer laser, to reshape the eye. Flap is flipped back, and viola, vision is corrected. It has been done millions of times worldwide. But there are occasional issues with LASIK. Without going into all the detail, there can be problems with making or healing of the flap, and it can move during the early days after the procedure in rare cases creating “wrinkles” that need to be surgically fixed. Also, some nerve endings are cut creating a temporary dry eye for some, and other things that are unlikely but real nonetheless. All of this has scared many of the faint of heart away from LASIK. Some just don’t like the idea of “burning away” tissue from their eye, although there really is not burning going on with LASIK. Nonetheless, many, especially the so called Millennials, have been waiting for the next generation procedure to show itself.
Enter SMILE. Here, a tiny incision can be used to remove a very small piece of tissue that is cut by the laser, to restore vision, and without a flap! The laser, made only by Zeiss is called appropriately enough, the VisuMax. In about 35 seconds, the laser precisely cuts the shape of a small contact lens from within the cornea, and then the surgeon removes this piece of tissue. The eye is permanently reshaped, to a front surface which is very similar to that obtained by wearing a soft contact lens, and clear vision is restored.
A photo of Dr. Dishler at the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 10-15-16. Dr. Dishler was invited to make an introductory speech at the Zeiss booth launching the celebration of the FDA approval of ReLEx SMILE.
Currently ReLEx SMILE is approved for about 99% of all nearsightedness cases, so even very bad eyes can be fixed. It does not yet correct astigmatism, but another study, that is almost complete, will hopefully expand the range to include these peeps also. When this happens we will have a viable alternative to LASIK for almost everyone seeing laser vision correction.
very detailed questionnaire So how were the results. In a word, they were great. Both the vision results were superb, the complications were few, and a about the experience of study subjects revealed that most everyone was very satisfied.
What does Dr. Dishler have to do with all of this? He (I) was the medical monitor of the study for Zeiss, overseeing and stewarding the study before, during, and after to this point of approval. We also treated our fair share of the patients as an investigative site. We learned first-hand in both this study, and the astigmatism one that followed, just what makes this procedure work well, and we are happy to make it available to the right people very soon.
Who are these “right people”? Part of this is easy, it is the people who fit the criteria of any voluntary refractive eye surgery, of healthy eyes other than nearsightedness. In addition, such folks as policemen/women firefighters, avid sports nuts, and anyone who might get hit in the eye makes the most sense. This is why the US military is so excited about ReLEx SMILE, and why they are starting their own study very soon for military personnel. Their study will bring further validation to the process, since people like pilots will be treated and combat ready troops.
To begin with the ReLEx SMILE will be offered by the six investigative sites, then a select group of prestigious doctors and institutions, and a short time later it will be rolled out to several doctors in most communities throughout the country. A year from now this should be widely available. If you have an interest in finding out if you are a good candidate for this new refractive procedure, then please make an appointment for a consultation with our staff. We expect a lot of interest and will be placing qualified people on a wait list in the order that they are seen. If you are an early adopter of new technology (look down and see if you have an iPhone 7 for instance) then this might be calling your name. Come on in for a chat.
Want to learn more? Check out these links for more information of this new eye opening option. ReLEx SMILE, contact lenses out – forever.