Are You Awake During LASIK Surgery? Anaesthesia Explained

are you awake during lasik

The dangers and disadvantages of having poor vision cannot be overstated. Thankfully, modern science and technology have continually come up with creative solutions to the problem of visual impairment. Presently, LASIK corrective eye surgery is considered one of the safest and most effective surgeries not just in ophthalmology, but in the field of surgery as a whole.

Unlike most types of surgery, LASIK surgery is performed while the patient is fully awake. Numbing eye drops are used by anaesthesiologists to make LASIK surgery a painless procedure.

Since its invention in the late 1980s, LASIK surgery has continued to become safer, more accessible, and consequently, more appealing to people looking for a more “natural” alternative to wearing eyeglasses or contact lenses.

What is LASIK Surgery

Laser assisted in situ keratomileusis, commonly known as LASIK corrective eye surgery, is a refractive surgery performed with the help of excimer lasers. These specialized eye cutting lasers are first used to partially peel the outer layer of the cornea to create a hinged “flap”, exposing the inner cornea which will then be sculpted by the excimer lasers into the correct shape to eliminate visual impairment.

LASIK corrective eye surgery can be used to cure patients suffering from Myopia (Nearsightedness), Hyperopia (Farsightedness), Astigmatism, and even naturally aging eyes.

Why You Remain Awake During LASIK Surgery

In comparison with other types of surgery, LASIK surgery is very short, usually lasting no more than 30 minutes with both eyes being operated on. The numbing eye drops doctors use are also potent enough to eliminate pain and discomfort during the operation, making general anaesthesia essentially excessive in both effect and cost.

For patients who remain anxious about staying awake during surgery, surgeons may offer a mild sedative or other medications to help alleviate nervousness.

General Anaesthesia vs Local Anaesthesia

Most patients would say that being asleep for the duration of surgery is the safer, more reassuring option compared to being completely conscious. In the context of LASIK eye surgery, however, local anaesthesia is the more sensible option considering the following factors:

  • General anaesthesia is riskier since it affects the patient’s entire body, including major organs such as the brain, lungs, and heart.
  • Considering the nuances of using general anaesthesia, it is also significantly more expensive than local anaesthesia. For example, aside from the surgeon’s fee, you also need to pay for the anaesthesiologist’s or specialist’s fee since they have to prepare and administer the drug, as well as monitor your vitals throughout the surgery.
  • Since general anaesthesia introduces a potent dose of foreign chemicals into your body, toxicity is higher. This can result in symptoms such as vomiting and nausea, among other things.
  • Other side effects of using general anaesthesia include shivering, dizziness, momentary confusion and loss of memory, and painful bruising due to the IV drip.
  • The risks of general anaesthesia are also elevated by a patient’s pre-existing conditions, as well as their lifestyle. This can include obstructive sleep apnea, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, drug allergies, smoking, and lung, kidney, or heart conditions.

Overall, local anaesthesia is cheaper, safer, and easier to administer, making it the more sensible choice over general anaesthesia for LASIK surgery.

Preparing for Surgery

Your eye doctor will run a myriad of eye examinations to evaluate your condition, as well as an extensive assessment of your medical and surgical history to determine if LASIK eye surgery can be performed safely.

Patients who wear contact lenses may also be asked to refrain from using them since they alter the shape of one’s cornea, making it difficult for eye doctors to make an accurate assessment. During this period, wearing eyeglasses is recommended as an alternative.

Unless you have a pre-existing medical condition that discourages you from doing so, eye doctors will typically advise you to increase your water intake prior to surgery. This is because staying hydrated can speed up your recovery and help prevent dry eyes post-op.

Make sure you arrange for someone to drive you home after your surgery as it is common to have hazy or blurry vision for a few days post-op.

Safety Concerns Related to Blinking and Eye Movement

Before the actual lasers begin work on your eyes, your surgeon will use a medical device to help keep your eyes open and ensure that you don’t blink during the operation.

Medical Disclaimer: The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
Dennis Clawson
I've worn glasses since 5th grade; I've come to terms with my poor vision and hope to share my experiences with others via Eyes FAQ. My goal is to share what I've learned and researched in hopes that it helps others with poor eye-sight.