Early estimates that suggested laser eye surgery resulted in complications in just a few percentage of cases look like being wildly conservative.
A specialist eye centre in London has found that 56 per cent of those who underwent LASIK surgery had suffered loss of contrast sensitivity (the inability to distinguish objects in poor light). Their findings tally with findings in other countries; in Germany, for instance, tests found that 75 per cent of LASIK patients had such poor contrast sensitivity that they failed basic night vision standards. This means they were not allowed to drive at night.
A symposium at Moorfield's Eye Hospital in London heard that 30 per cent of patients who underwent photorefractive keratectomy and half who were treated with the LASIK method lost contrast sensitivity within two years and one year, respectively.
The loss of night vision appears to be permanent, and cannot be corrected either with glasses or contact lenses.
LASIK also weakens the cornea in 40 per cent of cases and, in some cases, the cornea resumes its original curvature, and myopia returns.
It's about time laser eye surgery came with a full, and honest, health warning.
(The Lancet, 2003; 361: 1225-6).