However, while LASIK is still a viable choice for some patients, the advanced procedure known as ReLEx® SMILE, a minimally invasive refractive surgery, is an excellent alternative for patients who require surgical treatment for nearsightedness (myopia) and astigmatism. ReLEx® SMILE - in short for “refractive lenticule extraction” and “small incision lenticule extraction” - is minimally-invasive and patients can expect much fewer complications after surgery. Due to less risk of complications and faster healing times, ReLEx® SMILE offers distinct advantages that can make the procedure a better choice for adult patients.
How Does ReLEx® SMILE Work?
ReLEx® SMILE represents the most significant advance in cornea refractive surgery since the introduction of LASIK more than 20 years ago. ReLEx® SMILE is the process in which the lenticule is removed mechanically through a small incision, whereas in LASIK a femtosecond laser is used to cut a corneal flap.
Simply put, the major difference between ReLEx® SMILE and LASIK is the corneal flap. LASIK uses a laser to cut a small flap in the cornea which is then laid back down and left to heal in place. No flap is cut during ReLEx® SMILE. The integrity of the cornea is more preserved, as the lenticule is removed mechanically through a tiny incision. This also means less cutting of corneal nerves during ReLEx® SMILE, thereby patients experience shorter post-operative dryness of the eyes.
The ReLEx® SMILE incision is 80 percent smaller, whereas the incision used in LASIK is typically about 20 millimeters, for ReLEx® SMILE it is about 4 millimeters or less.
The ReLEx® SMILE procedure takes 30 minutes only while patients are awake and lie on their back. A topical analgesic in eye-drop form is applied to the eyes prior to the procedure, and patients also receive a sedative to relax.
Is ReLEx® SMILE Right for You?
Which procedure is best for which patient is something that should be determined through a discussion with your doctor. A medical consultation prior to the procedure is required to determine suitability.
If suitability is confirmed, contact lens wearers will need to stop wearing their lenses for at least 3 days prior to the procedure, to allow the cornea to return to its normal curvature.
Almost immediately after the procedure concludes, patients are able to see big things, but vision will be somewhat foggy. For the first day, patients should relax, lie on their back, close their eyes and sleep if possible, to promote faster wound healing. The next day, patients return for a follow-up with the doctor to monitor healing and vision progress. Further follow-ups are done after one week and after one, three and six months.
Why Choose ReLEx® SMILE?
ReLEx® SMILE procedure allows for a faster healing time while reducing eye irritation, leading to better results with no risk of flap related complications. ReLEx® SMILE is also preferred by athletes and those involved in contact sports, since there is no risk of flap displacement, which is possible for patients who have undergone LASIK corrective surgery.
Most patients of ReLEx® SMILE can expect to return to their normal activities within a couple of days after surgery, although exact healing time will vary by each patient.
A faster recovery is due to a smaller incision and less tissue damage, a 4-millimeter incision compared to a 20-millimeter incision typically heals faster, which can translate to less eye irritation, a quicker return to normal activities and lower risk of wound-related infections or other complications.
For most people, another major deciding factor is the corneal flap, as ReLEx® SMILE removes the fear of future flap-related complications. Additionally, ReLEx® SMILE is the procedure of choice for patients who lack the necessary thickness in the cornea, as this procedure does not include cuts to the corneal flap and very little pressure is applied to the eye.
Patients of ReLEx® SMILE arrive at the decision to choose this procedure after careful discussion with their doctor about the risks, benefits and possible complications of all available procedures.
Let’s Talk About It
The Eye Center at Bumrungrad International Hospital features ReLEx® SMILE and many other highly specialized and individualized procedures for the correction and treatment of vision disorders. From the latest technology to doctors and specialists who are at the top of their fields, Bumrungrad is prepared to offer each patient the care they need.
If you are considering cornea refraction surgery, it is important to talk to your doctor to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for the procedure, and to understand the benefits, risks and potential complications of each of the available options. This will ensure you make a fully informed decision that provides the best possible outcome for your unique individual situation.
If you or someone you love is still suffering from a vision disorder, contact the Eye Center today to set an appointment online. We’re standing by to care for your precious eyes.
By the Eye Center, Bumrungrad International Hospital.