OK. lots of new laser eye surgery names appearing, so let’s confirm what they mean!
Z-LASIK: means blade free LASIK using the new Swiss Ziemer laser to make a corneal flap, rather than a traditional blade.
iLASIK: means blade free LASIK but using the American Intralase laser to make a corneal flap.
So, simple so far. Z for Ziemer’s laser and i for Intralase’s laser. Both of these devices allow elimination of a blade to make a physical cut in the cornea. Instead they use millions of precise laser pulses to create a very accurate flap, removing the potential risks associated with a metal-blade mechanical system.
Click here to watch an FDA animation of mechanical blade LASIK (N.B. Caution: watching this will put you off ever having bladed LASIK in the future! You will definitely want to opt for all laser LASIK after this!)
So what’s the difference between Ziemer and Intralase lasers?
The Ziemer laser is a new system, with potential advances upon the American Intralase laser flap maker. Ziemer’s lasers, called the LDV, appears to eliminate occasional complications found with iLASIK. Some iLASIK patients (around 7% quoted at time of writing) get a marked discomfort and aversion to light after laser vision correction, know as “transient light sensitivity”. Intensive anti-inflammatory medications can resolve this condition.
This side effect is not seen with Z-LASIK, possibly because of a much more tightly focused laser energy pulse and greatly reduced energy per pulse, compared to Intralase’s looser focus and wider dispersion of energy in the cornea.
Studies are ongoing to compare the two systems in greater detail.
Background on the LASIK procedure:
Creating the corneal flap is the first stage in a LASIK procedure. Treatment to correct your eyesight is actually done on the corneal tissue that’s below the surface and access to it is done by making a surface flap and folding it back (quite painlessly!).
This flap creation is critical for a successful result of your LASIK surgery – it needs to be of exactly the right thickness and in exactly the right place. When the surgery is completed, it’s easily folded back into position and acts as a delicate bandage over the treated eye. It heals up by itself.
The microkeratome devices used in traditional LASIK surgery are hand-held tools with a steel blade that oscillates, moving back and forth at very high speeds. When used expertly it makes a good flap but the thickness can vary more than laser flaps and they can be more irregular, tending to be thinner in the centre.
LASIK complications are quite rare. Fact. But when they do happen, they often arise from a poorly created corneal flap. Use of new femtosecond lasers (Ziemer or Intralase) greatly reduces the likelihood of any such complications.
About the Author: Mr. Dave Allamby FRCS FRCOphth is a leading London-based laser eye surgeon. You may have seen him on the This Morning TV show with Phillip Schofield and Fern Britton or read one of several articles in the national press, recently for treating Denise Van Outen, rock giant Rick Wakeman and broadcaster Paul Ross. David is Medical Director at Focus Laser Vision, known as a world-leading clinic in the treatment of presbyopia, or age related loss of close vision. Focus Laser Vision is also London's only clinic to offer next-generation Z-LASIK laser eye treatment for short sight, long sight or astigmatism.