Finding a Good Surgeon for Vision Correction
Finding a good surgeon for your vision correction care, whether by LASIK, PRK, ICL or lens implant, is not as simple as it sounds. It would be great if there were the equivalent of a “Michelin Guide” for medical care. With any professional service including elective surgery, there can be wide variations in critical factors including diagnostic capability, treatment capability, surgeon experience, surgeon judgment, staff training, and procedure price, among others. As with any significant purchase that you may contemplate, you would be well-advised to approach vision correction care with a careful, cautious, ‘buyer beware’ attitude. Do your due diligence: Ask questions, seek out others who have had similar care, etc.
If you find it helpful, use the following criteria as your own personal guide:
- Experience. Make sure your surgeon has performed at least 1,000 LASIK and/or cataract-IOL procedures. Dr. Wallace has done over 17,000 LASIK treatments and over 10,000 lens implant surgeries.
- Case Volume. Certain specialists want you to be impressed with how many procedures they have done. However, high volume does not necessarily mean high quality. A good analogy here is that, if you are in the mood for a great burger, you wouldn’t necessarily go to McDonald’s simply because they claim, “Billions and billions served”.
- Personal Recommendation. Often, the best recommendations come from friends, family, or acquaintances that have already been to a particular doctor for vision correction care. While personal referrals and endorsements are persuasive, I advise doing your homework, checking out the surgeon through the other methods outlined here as well.
- Meet and Speak With the Surgeon Personally . In some practices, you don’t get a chance to meet the surgeon before the day of surgery. In my opinion (and that of many lawyers and medical authorities), this is less than desirable. If the doctor is “too busy doing surgery” to speak with you personally, my advice would be to leave and find another surgeon.
- Speak to Patients, View surgery. Ask to speak to some of the patients that have had their procedures done with this particular doctor or center. Also ask to view an actual procedure, and take note of the proficiency of the staff, the attention to detail of the surgeon, and other intangible factors.
- Results: The more meticulous and detail-oriented surgeons carefully track and statistically analyze their patient's outcomes. Ask the surgeon to can show you his (or her) results and complication rate. The surgeon and/or staff should be willing to discuss these issues with you candidly and openly (not defensively). At LA Sight, our LASIK patients achieve 20/40 or better vision 99.9% of the time, when optimum distance vision is targeted. This level of vision would allow you to pass the DMV vision test without the need for corrective eyewear. To review our Statistical Analysis of Outcomes for patients treated at LA Sight, click the link.
- Enhancement Rate: In any practice, some small percentage of patients may benefit from a touch-up (sometimes called enhancement) to achieve ideal vision. One of the advantages of LASIK is that it can be "enhanced" or "touched up" if there is an under- or over-correction from the targeted goal. Seek out a surgeon who has an enhancement rate equal to or better than (below) the national average (about 8%). Our enhancement rate at LA Sight is now about 2.2% for patients with nearsightedness and astigmatism, followed for one year after initial treatment.
- Licensure. Check to see that the surgeon has a valid medical license, and that the license is in good standing. State medical boards including the California Medical Board typically list this information on their web sites. Licensure means only that the doctor has satisfactorily completed medical school and a one-year internship, but does not guarantee specialty training or competence in a particular field.
- Board Certification. Make sure a surgeon is board-certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology. Believe it or not, many states permit physicians to perform LASIK with little or no specialty training! Board certification means that doctor has completed a rigorous three-year residency in ophthalmology (specialty training in care of diseases and surgery of the eyes), and has passed both a written and oral exam after residency. You can now verify board certification online through the American Board of Medical Specialties website, or call the American Board of Ophthalmology directly at (610) 664-1175.
- Litigation Search. If you are extra careful, you may want to check one of the public information databases on the internet, searching for evidence of malpractice claims against a particular surgeon and/or laser center. I have used and recommended knowx.com for this purpose. This information is not free, but may be worth it. Attorneys and law offices can subscribe to the Lexis-Nexus litigation database, so if you have a friend or relative who is a lawyer, you can ask them to run a search and review the results with you. The number of malpractice filings against a doctor does not in itself indicate the severity or culpability in any individual case; but in my opinion, more than a very small number of claims is usually not a good sign.
- Celebrity Endorsement? Our celebrity and entertainment-oriented culture involves a great deal of celebrity endorsement. I would caution that, more often than not, celebrity endorsement is a form of paid advertising: Entertainment figures and/or media personalities are offered free LASIK in exchange for their “enthusiastic endorsement”. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I only offer that it should be recognized for what it is. Prospective patients might inquire whether any discount, trade, or other consideration was afforded in order to secure such endorsement from any celebrity.
50 Tough Questions: A more expanded verions of the above list is the 50 Tough Questions to Ask Your Surgeon. This list was compiled by a consumer advocacy group, the Council for Refractive Surgery Quality Assurance, or CRSQA. The questions, along with our answers, are shown in the hyperlinked pdf document.
At LA Sight, we take the responsibility for your individual care very seriously. LASIK is an extremely safe procedure when performed by a well-trained and skilled surgeon. I advise seeking an experienced surgeon that will make your LASIK procedure seem like a few effortless minutes resulting in improved vision. We invite you to come to LA Sight, learn about vision correction, then relax and enjoy the LASIK experience with the confidence of knowing you are in the hands of a caring, experienced, well-trained team using state-of-the-art technology.
The FDA's LASIK site offers a specific page on What are the Risks and How can I Find the Right Doctor for Me?
Choose your surgeon wisely. Pertinent observations and recommendations are included in the online article by Steve Moidel, entitled How To See Clearly Through the LASIK Marketing Storm. Steve was a co-founder of the LASIK Referral Service. We think the article, while a bit harsh, is consistent with our own philosophy emphasizing excellence, results, and caring.
You may also wish to consult our list of Helpful Links.