Today most major cities have at least one laser eye surgery clinic, so you shouldn't have to travel too far for a consultation. The increasing popularity of laser eye surgery is borne out by the fact that close to 2 million Americans underwent the procedure in 2002 and more than 100,000 patients in the UK. The two main methods used for laser correction are LASEK and LASIK. Both procedures work on similar lines (in that they reshape the cornea), but differ in how they access the tissue. LASEK partially removes the outer layer of the cornea, whilst LASIK cuts a flap in it. As a result LASIK has the fastest recovery period.
Because there are so many clinics offering laser eye surgery (and more are springing up all the time) it's important to choose carefully. Firstly, make sure that you are given a thorough initial screening to determine suitability. Patients with enlarged pupils, thin corneas and a range of specific medical conditions should not be surprised if they are advised against surgery. Anyone with severe eye-sight problems will also often be screened out. A series of diagnostic tests should result in the surgeon being able to indicate whether there is a good chance of success.
Once you've chosen the right clinic it's important to make sure that you get the right surgeon (which is something that's all too often overlooked). The training process for laser eye surgery is relatively straightforward, but it's essential that you get an experienced surgeon rather than a ‘rookie'. The best way to ensure that you are getting the most experienced professional is to arrange a prior appointment with the surgeon who is going to carry out the procedure. If you meet beforehand don't be afraid to ask about their success rate and how long they have been in the business. Clinics that do not allow you access to this type of information (or who seem to be rushing you through the process) should be avoided.
Once you start looking at different clinics you'll soon notice that the equipment used has a bearing on the cost of the procedure. Top clinics tend to offer ‘additional' technologies, such as wavefront which increases the accuracy of the operation by generating a 3D computer map of the cornea. Don't forget that laser eye surgery clinics are commercial operations and it's possible to negotiate discounted rates. Clinics also promote their services with incentives, such as ‘two for one' deals. Offers such as these may well make economic sense, but it's a good idea to approach them with a healthy degree of scepticism.
Remember that with all surgical procedures complications are a possibility and laser eye surgery is no exception. Hence, it's impossible to overstate the importance of choosing a clinic with a good level of post-operative care.