How to Compare Laser Eye
If you're looking into LASIK or other laser eye surgery, cost is going to be one of your main concerns. It's a significant investment, and you want to do your homework to be sure the price you're quoted is reasonable for your vision correction needs.
We provide average LASIK prices in a separate article, but prices can vary a lot from one surgery center to another, and it depends greatly on surgeon skill, the technology used, your vision prescription and more.
Newer Technology Can Increase LASIK Cost
There are different types of LASIK. You may expect higher costs when you choose newer options such as these over traditional LASIK:
- Custom LASIK (or wavefront LASIK), which uses wavefront analysis to measure and map the eye's aberrations to help provide a more precise correction.
- Femtosecond laser technology (often called all-laser LASIK or bladeless LASIK), which uses a laser instead of a blade to cut the corneal flap. Those surgeons who perform all-laser LASIK cite studies that show patients have fewer flap complications, need fewer retreatments and have a greater likelihood of achieving 20/20 visual acuity or better.
But not all eye surgeons agree that laser-made flaps are superior, and the merits of blade versus bladeless LASIK continue to be debated.
But keep in mind that many surgeons don't charge a separate fee for new technologies used in LASIK, and instead quote their price as a single fee. In a survey of U.S. eye surgeons, about half said they quote their price as a single fee.
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- Save up to $500 on LASIK when you become a VSP member
U.S. refractive surgeons are evenly divided between those who charge a single price for all their laser procedures and those who charge various prices according to the technology used or the severity/type of vision correction required by the patient. (Pricing information provided to AllAboutVision.com by a leading industry analyst.)
Other Contributors to LASIK Cost
One reason fees vary is that different providers perform varying levels of preoperative testing. Since proper screening can avoid problems, it's important to determine if appropriate testing is included in a quoted price.
Wide variation exists also in the cost of equipment used for testing and surgery. Technologies for eye tracking, tear film analysis and measurements of corneal thickness, corneal topography and pupil size, as well as the laser itself, are available at various price points and can be reflected in the procedure fee.
Refractive surgery fees cover a variety of costs, including:
- Purchase or lease and maintenance of the excimer laser, microkeratome, femtosecond laser and/or other devices used in the procedure.
- A $100 to $150 per eye royalty fee to the excimer laser manufacturer, who must recoup the cost to develop the machine.
- A $145 to $250 per eye royalty fee if it is a custom procedure, depending on the laser manufacturer.
- Microkeratome blades, surgical solutions and medications used during the surgery.
- For a femtosecond laser, disposable equipment that includes a metal cone and glass lens connecting the laser to the treated eye.
- Gowns, masks, gloves and other items for keeping the operation sterile.
- Overhead for the surgery center, which includes office and surgical staff salaries and benefits, rent, office equipment and office administration.
- Patient acquisition costs, which include advertising, seminars and fees paid to other eye care practitioners for comanagement.
- And, especially, "the surgeon," who is the single most important part of any surgical procedure.
Also included in most fees are the pre-op evaluation meeting, comprehensive eye examination (including technician time and equipment costs), follow-up office visits and tests, plus any standard medications.
Many surgeons also offer free enhancement surgery if it is warranted. Often a team of doctors reviews your case to determine this, and their time is included in the fee.
8 Important Questions to Ask Your Surgeon About Procedure Prices
When discussing fees with your surgeon, ask:
- What is included?
- What is not?
- May I have a written quote with everything itemized?
- Is the price quoted for one eye or both eyes? (Technically, one procedure equals one eye, even if both eyes will be corrected on the same day.)
- What will I have to pay for if complications occur or enhancement surgery becomes necessary?
- What will be the cost of prescription medications (such as anti-inflammatories and painkillers)?
- If I require temporary contact lenses or glasses after the procedure, how much will they cost?
- How many follow-up visits will I need to make, and at what cost?
What Else You Need to Know About Laser Eye Surgery Prices
Before making a final decision, ask yourself:
- Does the quote fall within typical ranges? (See the yellow-highlighted areas of our laser eye surgery price chart.)
- If the quote is significantly higher than usual, does your eye surgeon have exceptional credentials that help justify the extra price?
- If the quote is significantly lower than usual, is your eye surgeon relatively inexperienced? Are you sure you are being quoted the full price?
When a surgical center quotes a single price for all procedures regardless of technology or your presciption, ask these questions:
- Will I receive a laser-created flap?
- Will my procedure be wavefront-guided?
This information will help you compare the type of procedure you receive with the average prices on our price chart.
Above all, listen carefully to what your eye surgeon recommends regarding the right procedure for your vision needs and budget. Ask lots of questions. And don't hesitate to consult another surgeon if you have doubts.
[Page updated March 23, 2015]