LASIK Surgery: What to Expect on the Day of Surgery

A Surgery That Reshapes the Cornea to Correct Vision Problems

In This Article

A highly effective means of correcting vision without relying on glasses or contacts, laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis, known commonly as LASIK surgery, employs highly specialized lasers to shape the cornea of the eye.

On the day of your surgery, your eye will be numbed, and a specialized device will be used to correct the problem while you lie awake. It’s a quick procedure—usually taking only 30 minutes—and patients will be able to go home the same day.

Before the Surgery

In initial consultation and evaluation, the doctor will already have carefully assessed and measured the thickness of your eye’s cornea and determined a plan of attack. On the day of your LASIK surgery, then, you’ll need to arrange transportation back from the clinic (as your vision will be blurry for some time afterward).

Keeping the eyes clean will be essential for success. You will need to forgo personal care items and cosmetics that can leave debris in and around the area and may increase the chance of infection. On the day of surgery as well as the day before, so you should avoid using:

  • Eye creams
  • Facial lotions
  • Makeup
  • Perfume

Once at the hospital or clinic, you will be led to an operating room and be given drugs to help you relax; in addition, your eyes will be thoroughly cleaned out and special eye drops will be applied to numb the eyes.

During the Procedure

Taken together, LASIK surgery usually takes about 30 minutes, with roughly 15 minutes spent working on each eye. It’s performed while the patient is awake (general anesthesia is not required) and the work is performed by a specialized doctor called an ophthalmologist as well as their dedicated staff.

Numbing eye drops are applied, and, if necessary, other drugs may be given to help you relax. Though it’s performed while you’re awake, it’s well-tolerated and pain-free. What happens during LASIK surgery? Here’s a quick breakdown:

Getting the Eyes Ready

Following the application of the numbing drops and once they’ve set in, the ophthalmologist will use a specialized eye-lid holder to keep your eyes open. In addition, a suction ring will be placed around them to prevent them from moving during the procedure.

You’ll feel pressure on the eye—as if a finger were gently pressing on it—and your vision will get dimmer or go black.

Incision

Using either a specialized device called a “microkeratome,” or specialized laser beams, the doctor will make a small incision in the outside cornea, creating a flap. This will allow the team to access the part of the cornea that needs to be reshaped.

Shaping

The specialized device will then emit carefully calibrated laser beams to reshape the cornea. As this happens, you’ll hear a clicking sound, and be asked to focus on a target light. The devices used to perform the procedure will be programmed in with the exact configuration of your eye. It’s highly precise work.

Should you sneeze or move any part of your eye during treatment, the laser is designed to shut off immediately. 

Closing Up

Once the lasers have completed the reshaping, the final step will be to close up the flap in the cornea. Luckily, the flap re-attaches easily and healing is relatively quick; sutures or tape will not be necessary.

After the Surgery

With LASIK surgery, you are able to go home the same day; there’s no need to spend extra time in the clinic or hospital. All told, recovery occurs quite quickly and should take no more than three days; however, it can take longer for vision to get to full-strength.

That said, plan to take recovery days off of work and don’t engage in contact sports during that time. What can you expect as you heal from this treatment? Typically, there’s an orderly progression.

Leaving the Clinic

Recovery from LASIK surgery is relatively quick, and the patient is free to go as soon as they feel able. As mentioned, though, your vision will be severely affected and you’ll likely feel the aftermath of any anti-anxiety medications you’ve been given.

Make sure to arrange for transportation back home and plan on resting for some time afterward.

Wearing an Eye Shield

Immediately following LASIK surgery, you’ll have to wear an eye shield, and be told to wear it while you sleep. Basically, for that period of up to three days, your eye(s) will be itchy or feel like they’re burning, with some feeling pain.

You’ll also have disrupted vision, with blurriness and/or haziness, light sensitivity, glare, and you may see halos around lights. The eye shield will help prevent you rubbing or touching your eye during this time, which is an infection risk.

Follow-Up

To ensure that the procedure is successful, your first follow-up appointment will be within 48 hours of the surgery. At that initial post-operative visit, the doctor will remove the eye shield and test your vision. They may also prescribe special antibiotics drops for your eyes to prevent infection.

Reporting Issues

While some discomfort or mild pain is expected following this surgery, don’t hesitate to let the doctor know if you feel extreme pain. This can be a sign of infection or another issue. Luckily, these issues will certainly be caught in the first follow-up appointment.

A Word from Verywell

While the prospect of surgery on the eye may seem scary, the good news is that LASIK is a highly successful, well-tolerated procedure. In fact, over 99% of post-operative patients achieve vision of 20/40 or better, with more than 90% getting back to perfect vision.

If you’re thinking about having this procedure done, know that cutting-edge, highly sophisticated equipment will be used, and you’ll be under the direction of dedicated medical experts.

This surgery has let countless patients take in the vivid world of colors and contours around them without glasses or contacts. LASIK surgery can help you open your eyes and see.   

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Harvard Medical School. LASIK surgery: what to expect. Published 2020. 

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. What should I expect before, during, and after surgery?. 2018. 

  3. Boyd K. LASIK: laser eye surgery. American Academy of Ophthalmology. 2019. 

  4. American Refractive Surgery Council. What is the LASIK success rate?. 2017. 

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