ReLEx SMILE: The Latest Advance
Introduction to ReLEx smile: Thus far, since 1990 till about 1997, it was the era of PRK. More than 90% of all laser refractive surgery procedures done in the world were done using PRK. From 1997 till about 2006, it was the era of microkeratome LASIK. From 2006 to now, it is the era of femtosecond LASIK. The majority of the laser vision correction procedures done in Europe and America are now performed using Femto-LASIK.
It is now time for further evolution. Recall that the three disadvantages of LASIK (even Femto-LASIK) are a) the increase in the tendency for dry eyes b) the small possibility of a flap displacement and c) weakening of the cornea because the flap does not contribute anything to the corneal strength.
Recently, a new procedure has evolved, called ReLEx smile laser vision correction, which promises to even minimize these disadvantages. In ReLEx Smile eye surgery, the femtosecond laser is used to carve out a lenticule (corresponding to the refractive error to be corrected) within the corneal stroma. Then a small side cut incision is created, and the lenticule is extracted from the cornea and discarded, thus lending the cornea a new shape, corresponding to the need of the patient.
ReLEx SMall Incision Lenticule Extraction allows the patient correction of the refractive error without a large side cut incision and without the creation of a corneal flap, while preserving to a large extent, the original corneal architecture. Since the correction is done intrastromally, without disturbing the epithelium, there is no pain or the delayed visual recovery common to PRK. Since there is no flap, there is no likelihood of a flap displacement. Finally, since there is only a small side cut incision, very few corneal nerves get cut, thus leading to a less problem of dry eyes.
There are other advantages of ReLEx SMILE. It takes less time for the treatment of both eyes compared with Femto-LASIK. Similar to Femto-LASIK, there are no red eyes following the procedure. Finally, the procedure seems to give better, more stable results, which is because an excimer laser is dependent on external factors like humidity, but the femtosecond laser is less dependent on such factors overall.
We are proud that New Vision Laser Centers has participated in the development of the ReLEx smile technique. We were the third center in the world to start performing this exciting new technique, and have contributed to the development of the technique. To date, we also have the largest numbers of eyes performed with this technique in the world. Today more than 50 centers in the world have already adopted ReLEx smile as a premium refractive surgery procedure. We hope that in the coming years, a lot more surgeons and patients can take advantages of this exciting new technique, despite its relatively high costs. This is perhaps the ultimate in laser refractive surgery.