Flap Complications After LASIK: What Patients Should Know

By William Holcomb on March 12, 2015

An eye in a laser and glowing haloThe team here at Holcomb Laser Center believe that patients deserve to know about all of the risks and benefits of LASIK surgery. This improves overall patient satisfaction and also helps prevent serious health issues as patients heal. It's with this in mind that we'd like to turn our attention to flap complications, which can affect the results of a LASIK procedure.

Understanding the LASIK Procedure

In order to discuss flap complications, let's first consider the creation of a flap during LASIK surgery.

During LASIK, a flap must be made on the central, topmost part of the cornea, which is known as the epithelium. By creating this flap, the overall corneal contour can be adjusted with the safe surgical laser. At the end of surgery, the epithelial flap is set back down in order to heal.

Why do flap complications occur?

Flap complications tend to occur as a result of surgical error or physical contact with the eye as patients are healing. These cause the flap to shift out of place, resulting in poor vision, irritation of the eye, and other possible complications.

Types of Flap Complications

Some of the more common kinds of flap complications are as follows:

  • Problems during surgery with epithelial flap creation - This refers to issues that arise during surgery as the LASIK surgeon is creating the epithelial flap.

  • Wrinkles forming on the epithelial flap - When the epithelial flap is set down, it's important that the surface is smooth. Poor placement at the end of surgery or physical contact with the eye after surgery can lead to wrinkles or folds forming on the flap as it heals.

  • Epithelial ingrowth - The cells of the outer part of the epithelium are different that the cells of the inner part of the epithelium. Ingrowth refers to the outer cells growing inside of the epithelium below the area where the flap was created.

  • Infection/inflammation of the eye - Problems during the recovery process can lead to serious infection and inflammation via the epithelial flap.

  • Irregular astigmatism - The result of wrinkles on the corneal flap and other kinds of issues while healing, irregular astigmatism can lead to ghost images or double vision.

  • Keratectasia (keratoconus) - This condition refers to the outward bulging of the eyeball. When the epithelial flap heals improperly, pressure inside of the eye causes outward projection of the eyeball.

How likely are flap complications?

Thankfully flap complications are relatively rare thanks to advanced surgical technology, improvements in surgical techniques, and a better understanding of what patients can do in the post-op recovery process.

Tips for Preventing and Avoiding Flap Complications

As you heal from LASK surgery, be sure to wear your LASIK goggles as directed. Avoid rubbing or touching the eye area until your surgeon says it is okay to do so. If your eyes are itchy or irritated, use lubricating eye drops to soothe them.

Ultimately, patients should follow all post-op instructions to the letter, and any concerns during the healing process should be addressed to their LASIK surgeon so urgent matters can be tended to promptly.

Schedule a Consultation at Holcomb Laser Center

If you would like to learn more about LASIK and how it can enhance your eyesight and improve your overall quality of life, be sure to contact our advanced vision correction and laser eye surgery center today. At Holcomb Laser Center, we will be more than happy to go over all risks and benefits of surgery in greater detail.

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