SMILE is the 3rd generation of laser vision correction and the most significant advance in technology in over a decade. This ‘keyhole’ technique is minimally invasive, bladeless one-step, one laser procedure. Unlike traditional laser vision correction methods, no flap is created, leaving the top layer of the cornea almost completely intact. It is a less invasive procedure, with minimal interference with corneal nerves. This allows for faster healing.
SMILE, LASIK or GLASSES ?
A refractive error: This refers to an issue with the vision that happens when the shape of the cornea, prevents clear focus in the distance or near vision. Short-sightedness (myopia), long-sightedness (hyperopia) and astigmatism are all ‘refractive errors’.
A refractive error is essentially a cornea that is not completely round. This can of course be corrected with the use of glasses or contact lenses, however laser vision correction surgery, such as LASIK and ASLA use laser technology to reshape the cornea in order to correct vision. SMILE also reshapes the cornea, however the steps are different.
SMILE: rather than creating an incision in the top layer of the cornea, the laser creates a tiny 4-5mm keyhole entry point. Then the computer guided, highly focused laser light creates a precise lens-shaped disc of tissue within the cornea. This disc of tissue is called a ‘lenticule’ because it is lenticular in shape and is removable. The surgeon programs the computer before the procedure begins to ensure the laser is tailored to the exact size and shape that corresponds to the refractive error of the patient.
Once the laser part of the procedure is done, the surgeon will gently remove the lenticule through the tiny keyhole incision. This reshapes the cornea and vision is corrected. The laser part of the procedure is fast – it’s all over in 25 seconds. The patient will be in the laser suite for around 20 minutes and in the facility for around 2 hours, then is able to return home to rest.
How does SMILE differ from LASIK?
SMILE is a minimally invasive small incision procedure. The upper layers of the cornea are left unaffected. This means reduced dry eye as compared to LASIK where the incision is 80% larger.
SMILE is a flapless procedure, unlike LASIK where a flap is created. No flap with SMILE means it may be a more suitable treatment option for patients who play contact sports, and for military and flight personnel.
With SMILE, the laser procedure takes less than 30 seconds. The laser is silent and odourless. It is a one-step one laser procedure unlike LASIK, which is a two-step laser procedure.