Navy Aviators Get LASIK

Lasik Navy

Navy Aviators Now Ready For Refractive Surgery
In a 2006 news report, reporters noted the U.S. Naval medicine department achieved a groundbreaking milestone. On December 11, 2006 the U.S. Navy announced that, for the first time, the Bureau of Naval Medicine project successfully performed the IntraLase procedure on a naval aviator.

Typically the government does not approve LASIK procedures for U.S. military aviators. The U.S. Navy has however, conducted many clinical trials of LASIK over the last decade. Most trials included non-aviation personnel, however a new project is now underway providing aviators the opportunity to enjoy LASIK procedures using the IntraLase Method.

LASIK New To Aviation
While LASIK has been around for more than two decades, before now the U.S. Navy has been reluctant to allow surgeons to carry out the procedure on aviators. Aviators often face extreme environmental conditions that may pose abnormal risks. These environments include extremes of altitude, wind, dry air and G forces.

The introduction of refractive surgery into the field of aviation is according to the Navy Program Manager for Refractive Surgery, "A significant first." Many members of the aeromedical field feel excited at the advancing technology and opportunities it presents to all military personnel, including aviators.

IntraLase Vs. LASIK
The IntraLase procedure used is an all-laser, bladeless LASIK procedure. During an ordinary LASIK procedure, a surgeon uses a microkeratome blade to create a corneal flap, which the surgeon lifts to reshape the cornea using a femtosecond laser. The IntraLase laser is more precise, using a laser to create a corneal flap and allowing surgeons the ability to create better outcomes, including more patients with 20/20 vision following the procedures.

The military scheduled four new aviators to take part in IntraLase procedures. The blade-free procedure has caused much excitement among aviators and the U.S. Navy in general.

Here's a brief review of how the procedure works. Using the advanced IntraLase method, the follow procedures occur:

  • First, a laser beam points to the cornea precisely.
  • The laser creates microscopic bubbles by pulsing to provide an incision area within the cornea.
  • The bubbles created stack to reveal a flap.
  • The surgeon exposes the corneal bed and reshapes with the excimer laser.
  • The surgeon then replaces the flap precisely along the beveled edge of the cornea.
One reason surgeons prefer the IntraLase procedure for aviators is it allows the surgeon more precise control when shaping the cornea and creating the corneal flap. The entire surgery takes place in a matter of minutes. In fact it takes just 15 seconds to create the corneal flap using the bladeless IntraLase technique. The recovery is often quick with fewer complications than those associated with traditional LASIK. Most soldiers and aviators can return to business within a few short days.

Most believe this procedure provides better and safer surgery for aviators and other military personnel whose lives depend on their eyesight. The success of this first case study suggests the aviation department will continue to approve more candidates for LASIK and IntraLase procedures in the near future.

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