Radial Keratotomy (RK)
Radial Keratotomy (RK) is designed to reduce or eliminate myopia, or nearsightedness. Nearsightedness is caused by the cornea being too steep or the eye too long for its corneal curvature. Light rays entering a nearsighted eye focus in front of the retina resulting in blurry vision. RK involves the placement of microscopic incisions outside of the central optical zone. This weakens the outer perimeter of the cornea and causes it to flatten, thereby moving the point of focus from in front of the retina to on the retina.
Radial Keratotomy was very popular in the 80s and early 90s but the advent of the Excimer Laser has added a high degree of accuracy to the correction of nearsightedness with procedures such as PRK and LASIK. RK is still performed on patients who have low to moderate degrees of nearsightedness and simply cannot afford the more expensive laser and surgical correction procedures.
RK is for those who:
- want to reduce or eliminate their dependence on glasses or contacts
- are over 18 years of age
- have a low to moderate degree of myopia (nearsightedness)
- have had a stable eye prescription for at least one year
- have no health issues affecting their eyes
What to expect on surgery day:
You will arrive 30-60 minutes prior to your procedure. Once you have been checked in you may be offered a sedative to help you relax. You will then be prepared for surgery. The area around your eyes will be cleaned and a sterile drape may be applied around your eye. Anesthetic eye drops will be used to numb your eyes; no injections or needles will be used. When your eye is completely numb, an eyelid holder will be placed between your eyelids to keep you from blinking during the procedure.
Next, a mark in a spoke-like pattern will be made on your cornea. This impression is temporary and is used for marking where the surgeon will make the incisions. The marks are based on a formula taking into account your prescription, age, and the amount of correction needed. Next, tiny spoke-like incisions will be made in a "radial" pattern around your cornea, outside of the central optical zone, to reshape the corneal curvature. Finally, antibiotic drops will be applied and the eyelid holder will be removed. The actual surgery takes about 5 minutes per eye but with pre-operative preparations it can take up to an hour.
Following your procedure, you will be given additional eye drops, and your eye(s) may be shielded for protection. Your vision will probably be a little blurry at first, so someone will need to drive you home. You should relax for the rest of the day. You may experience some discomfort, but this is usually alleviated with an over-the-counter pain reliever. Some people experience sensitivity to light, and watering or swelling of their eyes for a few days following the procedure.
Most patients resume normal activities within a day or two. Some patients see a dramatic improvement in their vision within the first day. For others, vision may be blurry for several weeks. Generally, only one eye is corrected at a time, with an average minimum wait of one week before surgery is performed on the second eye.
The decision to have RK is an important one that only you can make. The goal of any refractive surgical procedure is to reduce your dependence on corrective lenses. However, we cannot guarantee you will have the results you desire.
After RK, almost everyone experiences some visual side effects. These visual side effects are usually mild and most often diminish over a few days to a few weeks. But there is a slight chance that some of these side effects won't go away completely, including light sensitivity, glare, and halos. Serious complications to RK are extremely rare. Infection is the most worrisome complication and fortunately, it can usually be eliminated with antibiotic medications.
After a thorough eye exam, you and your doctor will determine if RK is an option for you. If you are a good candidate, you will be given additional information about the procedure that will allow you to make an informed decision about whether to proceed. Be sure you have all your questions answered to your satisfaction.
Alternatives to RK
RK is not the only surgical procedure designed to correct nearsightedness. To learn about other procedures go to the vision correction procedures section of our Web Site.