Fort Belvoir Community Hospital surgeons have performed the first small-incision lenticule extraction (SMILE) in the DoD, according to Health.mil News . The procedure to reduce or eliminate nearsightedness has been performed since 2011; the FDA recently approved it for the U.S.
The very fast and short-pulsed (femtosecond) laser creates a thin disc within the cornea, which is removed through a cut on the corneal surface. Removing the tissue changes the shape of the cornea.
The procedure takes 15 to 20 minutes with the laser activated for about 90 seconds per eye. Both eyes can be treated in the same session. With SMILE, unlike LASIK, no tissue is vaporized, meaning wound recovery time is faster, and with no corneal flap created, there is no risk of flap dislocation.
A clinical study found complications were rare, and by month 12 postsurgery there were only 4 reports of moderate or severe glare and 1 of moderate or severe halos. The most commonly reported effects were starbursts, blurred vision, and difficulty judging distance or depth perception, but at 12 months, more patients reported improvement than worsening. At the 6-month follow-up, 287 of 328 patients were seeing 20/20 or better without glasses.
“We are thrilled to extend this treatment option to active duty service members under the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Bruce Rivers, director of the program at Belvoir Hospital.
The surgery will make a difference for patients. One of the first to have it done, Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Christopher Mahmood, a submarine mechanic, said, “On a submarine we have to be able to put our breathing equipment on in approximately 30 seconds, in case of emergency. Glasses make this difficult. Getting this surgery means I have one less thing to worry about while deployed and can focus 100 percent on the mission.”
The SMILE procedure will be available at Belvoir Hospital, San Diego Naval Medical Center, and Wilford Hall in San Antonio.