Introduced in 2000 by the inventor of LASIK, Epi-LASIK combines the best features of LASIK and PRK while reducing complications such as haze and halos, dry eye, loss of nerve sensitivity, post-operative pain, vision regression and continued need for eyewear. Like PRK, Epi-LASIK affects only the surface of the cornea. Like LASIK, it involves making a flap of corneal tissue to reduce pain.
During Epi-LASIK a blunt microkeratome smoothly separates the surface layer, or epithelium, from the cornea. This thin flap is what gives the procedure its name: “Epi” stands for the Greek word “Epipolis,” meaning “superficial.” This avoids complications associated with the deep stromal flaps of ordinary LASIK including flap irregularity, epithelial ingrowth and corneal ectasia. Also, using a microkeratome to create the flap preserves cell integrity better than the alcohol solution used in the LASEK procedure.
Next, a laser reshapes the surface of the cornea to improve vision. The epithelial flap is then replaced and covered with a protective contact lens. The flap heals in a few days with very little pain and without stitches. The contact lenses can usually be removed after three days.
Epi-LASIK is best for people with thin corneas who would not be able to sustain a normal LASIK flap.