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Subjective pain, visual recovery and visual quality after LASIK, EpiLASIK (flap off) and APRK - a consecutive, non-randomized study.

INTRODUCTION: Laser in situ keratomileusis (LASIK) is superior to surface ablation techniques (SAT) such as alcohol photorefractive keratectomy (APRK) or Epi-LASIK (EpiK) in terms of visual recovery and postoperative pain. This study compares subjective symptoms and visual recovery of two different SATs with LASIK.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: One hundred and twenty seven patients were operated using one of the three techniques. Patients filled out a questionnaire describing symptoms assessing subjective visual recovery on a linear scale from 'not functioning' to 'full visual function' and pain on a linear scale from 'no pain' to 'severe daily pain'. Subjective symptoms such as halos, double vision, low night vision, reduced contrast and dry eyes were also evaluated.

RESULTS: Visual recovery was faster and discomfort symptoms less pronounced with the LASIK than with surface ablation procedures. More pain was reported after APRK than after EpiK (flap-off technique) in the early postoperative period, with a maximum of pain on postoperative days 3-4. Subjective visual recovery showed no statistically significant difference between the two surface ablation procedures. Halos, double vision, low night vision, reduced contrast and dry eyes were more extensively reported by the EpiK than the APRK group and were less pronounced in the LASIK than in the SAT group.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Our study does not uniformly support the previously published favourable results of EpiK compared to APRK with regard to subjective recovery of vision and postoperative pain.

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