February 08, 2019
1 min read

Study shows benefits of refractive surgery for military service members

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Refractive surgery significantly improves readiness and ability to carry out military tasks, according to a study.

Participants in the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program received PRK, LASIK or collamer lens implantation (only one participant) to correct refractive error at the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Va.

Before and after surgery, they were asked to assess their military performance in a questionnaire. In addition, the National Eye Institute Refractive Error Quality of Life Instrument (NEI RQL-42) was administered.

Of the 360 participants, 169 completed the questionnaire both before and after surgery. Responses were overwhelmingly positive: The respondents felt that they could better contribute to their unit’s mission and better meet the requirements after undergoing refractive surgery. Weapon sighting ability, the ability to use night vision goggles and personal masks, and to employ nuclear, biological and chemical equipment improved significantly, possibly because of the elimination of visual impediments associated with eyeglasses, the authors said.

Participants also reported increased ability to function at night and in extreme environmental conditions, such as sand, fog, smoke and rain. The use of advanced laser platforms, including the iFS Intra-Lase femtosecond laser (Johnson & Johnson) and the WaveLight Allegretto Wave Eye-Q excimer laser (Alcon) probably played a role in these results, minimizing contrast sensitivity degradation and night vision symptoms. The higher NEI RQL-42 scores for visual performance and image quality confirmed this assumption.

This study confirmed the success of the U.S. military refractive surgery program and revealed an extremely high satisfaction rate among participants. Nearly 99% of them said they would undergo refractive surgery again.

“The overall success of refractive surgery may be reflected in the patients’ perceived ability to perform occupation-specific tasks,” author Rose K. Sia, MD, told Primary Care Optometry News. “Our study underscores the positive impact of refractive surgery on vision-related quality of life among active duty U.S. military service members. These patients felt their vision, after refractive surgery, enhanced their capabilities and military readiness.”

“For this patient population, it is not unreasonable to think that the gains from spectacle independence through refractive surgery are not only confidence and morale boosters but also a significant operational and, more importantly, survival advantage,” the authors wrote. – by Michela Cimberle

Disclosure: The authors reported no relevant financial disclosures.