Astigmatic Keratotomy (AK) is an outpatient surgical procedure to reduce or eliminate astigmatism. Astigmatism is caused by a cornea (outer window of the eye) that is shaped like a football, steep in one meridian and flat in the other. In order to reduce or eliminate astigmatism, the cornea is reshaped to make it more spherical, like a basketball. AK can be used in combination with RK and other laser and surgical vision correction procedures.
AK involves the placement of microscopic incisions in the steeper meridian of the cornea. The incisions cause the cornea to assume a more spherical shape, thereby decreasing the degree of astigmatism.
AK is for those who:
- want to reduce or eliminate their dependence on glasses or contacts
- are over 18 years of age
- have a low to moderate degree of astigmatism
- have had a stable eye prescription for at least one year
- have no health issues affecting their eyes
What to expect on surgery day:
You will arrive 30-60 minutes prior to your procedure. Once you have been checked-in and settled comfortably, you will be prepared for surgery. The area around your eyes will be cleaned and a sterile drape will be applied. You may be given a sedative to help you relax. Anesthetic eye drops will be used to numb your eye; no injections or needles are used. When your eye is completely numb, an eyelid holder will be placed between your eyelids to keep you from blinking.
Next, a marker will be placed on your cornea. This impression is temporary and is used for marking where the surgeon will make the incisions. The marks are based on a formula taking into account your prescription, age and the amount of correction needed. Next, one or two microscopic incisions will be made in your cornea to make it more spherical. Finally, antibiotic drops will be applied and the eyelid holder will be removed. The actual surgery takes about 5 minutes, but with pre-operative preparations it can take up to an hour.
Following your procedure, you will be given additional eye drops, and your eye may be shielded for protection. Your vision will probably be a little blurry at first, so someone will need to drive you home. You should relax for the rest of the day. You may experience some discomfort, but this is usually alleviated with an over-the-counter pain reliever. Some people experience sensitivity to light, and watering or swelling of their eyes for a few days following the procedure.
Most patients resume normal activities within a day or two. Some patients see a dramatic improvement in their vision within the first day. For others, vision may be blurry for several weeks.
The decision to have AK is an important one that only you can make. The goal of any refractive surgical procedure is to reduce your dependence on corrective lenses. However, we cannot guarantee you will have the results you desire.
After AK, almost everyone experiences some visual side effects. These visual side effects are usually mild and most often diminish over time. But there is a slight chance that some of these side effects won't go away completely, including light sensitivity, glare and halos. Serious complications to AK are extremely rare.
If you decide that AK is an option for you, you will be given additional information about the procedure that will allow you to make an informed decision about whether to proceed. Be sure you have all your questions answered to your satisfaction. If you would like additional information about risks and complications now, you may download our "consent for surgery" form by going to Patient Forms.
The decision to have AK is an important one that only you can make.
Alternatives to AK
AK is not the only surgical procedure designed to correct astigmatism. To learn about other procedures go to the surgical and laser vision correction procedures section of our Web Site. You may also choose to make an appointment or request additional information to learn more about this exciting procedure.