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Photorefractive Keratectomy in Student Naval Aviators: Outcomes of the U.S. Navy Accessioning Study.

PURPOSE: To present the outcomes of the U.S. Navy photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) accessioning study conducted between 2000 and 2005 that helped lead to the acceptance of laser vision correction within the U.S. aviation industry.

METHODS: In this prospective masked study, a total of 301 students who had PRK and underwent naval flight training were compared to 4,368 untreated peers. Three training pipelines were compared: propeller/jet transport, jet fighters, and helicopters. The evaluated metrics were flight and academic performance (assessed for the primary and advanced stage of the training as normalized Navy Standard Score [NSS]), as well as the student attrition rate from training.

RESULTS: The attrition rate was lower in the PRK group compared to controls (15.9% vs 23.2%; P = .004). In the primary stage of training, students who had PRK outperformed controls in flight training performance in the propeller/jet transport pipeline (average NSS after PRK: 52.4 ± 7.5 vs controls: 50.7 ± 6.4, P = .02), but the flight performance in the jet fighter and helicopter pipelines was comparable between the two groups. Academic performance in the primary stage of training was approximately 7% to 13% higher in students who had PRK for all training pipelines. During the advanced training stage, there was no difference in the flight performance between the groups in any of the presented pipelines. Academic performance was significantly better for students who had PRK in the helicopter pipeline (51.2 ± 11.0 vs 46.7 ± 11.7 P < .001) but comparable between the two groups in the remaining pipelines.

CONCLUSIONS: Refractive surgery did not have adverse effects on flight performance metrics. Pilots who had PRK had comparable or better outcomes than their untreated peers. [ J Refract Surg . 2024:40(3):e173-e181.] .

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