Your PRK Procedure
On the day of your PRK procedure, make sure that you eat lightly in the morning. You’ll also want to avoid wearing eye makeup, facial moisturizer and any cumbersome hair accessories that could interfere with your surgeon’s ability to position your head as needed during the procedure. Also, make sure you wear comfortable clothing for your surgery.
Once in the surgical suite, you are asked to recline under the laser and relax. Your doctor numbs your eye with a topical eyedrop anesthesia. Then, in order to prevent you from blinking during the procedure, he or she will prop your eyelids open with a speculum.
Next, the surgeon gently removes the epithelium, which is the layer of clear “skin” or cells that cover the cornea. The epithelium must be removed because it blocks the laser from reshaping the cornea. The epithelium may be removed with a laser, a blade, a brush, or a special instrument called an epi-keratome. This step differs from the initial step of LASIK surgery, during which the flap is pulled back from the surface to expose the deeper layers of the cornea.
Next, based on measurements your surgeon took during your consultation, he or she will sculpt or reshape the cornea, enabling light to focus properly on the retina. PRK, like LASIK, is performed with an excimer laser, which reshapes the surface of the cornea with its cool, pulsing beam of ultraviolet light. The laser works its way down into the stroma, or structural part of the cornea, where the real reshaping takes place. This part of the procedure takes only 20-90 seconds per eye. As the laser removes tissue and reshapes the cornea, you will hear a tapping noise, which is caused by the laser energy.
Once the procedure is complete, a special, clear contact lens, called a bandage lens, is placed over your eye to help keep you more comfortable while the corneal epithelium regenerates, usually in 3-4 days. A typical PRK procedure takes about 3-5 minutes per eye. The entire process may take up to 30 minutes, though, with the majority of that time devoted to preparing your eyes for surgery.