Skip to main content

PRK Surgery - Photorefractive Keratectomy

PRK Surgery (Photorefractive Keratectomy) is an elective outpatient laser eye surgery procedure to improve vision and reduce or eliminate the need for eyeglasses or contact lenses. In PRK surgery, the surgeon uses the excimer laser to reshape the curvature of the eye for patients with nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism.

Prior to LASIK, PRK surgery was the most commonly performed laser vision correction procedure. PRK differs from LASIK, in that the surgeon does not create a flap. PRK surgery is best suited for patients with thinner corneas, or with vocational or sports-related limitations where a corneal flap is contraindicated.


How the PRK Procedure Works

Here’s how the PRK surgery procedure works:

  • There are no incisions with the PRK laser vision correction procedure.
  • The laser is properly calibrated before your PRK procedure begins.
  • An instrument is used to prevent blinking during the procedure.
  • Anesthetic drops are applied to numb your eye and prevent discomfort.
  • The protective surface layer (epithelium), which is too soft to hold the laser correction, is removed.  The epithelium will regrow within five days.
  • Your PRK surgeon then applies computer-controlled pulses of cool laser light to reshape the curvature of the eye. Deeper cell layers remain untouched.

The PRK laser vision correction process is completed in approximately five minutes for each eye. Upon completion, the surgeon places a clear bandage contact lens on the cornea to protect it and applies more eye drops. Since a layer about as slender as a human hair is typically removed, the cornea should maintain its original strength.

Often, both eyes are treated on the same PRK surgery day. However, your surgeon may decide to do only one eye at a time.



The biggest difference between the two procedures is the flap. During LASIK, your surgeon will create a flap with the outer layer of tissue from your cornea, but in PRK, the outer layer tissue is removed. After that, the procedures are ultimately the same. Both procedures use a laser to reshape your cornea.  

There are also some differences in the recovery of both procedures. You will feel a little more discomfort with PRK and the recovery will take a bit longer than LASIK. It will take one to three days for PRK patients to have their discomfort subside and may take up to 6 months for these patients to reach their peak clarity. In LASIK, the discomfort is short term and most patients report that they are seeing normally within hours after the procedure.

Even though there are a few differences between PRK and LASIK, the results are the same. Both procedures are safe and effective. 


Benefits of PRK Laser Treatment

The major benefit of the PRK laser treatment is that it may be performed on those who do not meet the requirements for traditional LASIK surgery. Good candidates for PRK laser treatment include people with dry eyes or thin corneas.

Improvements in laser technology have allowed surgeons to achieve results with PRK laser treatment that are equivalent to those possible with LASIK, though recovery times following the surgery are typically longer.


What to Expect with PRK

At TLC Laser Eye Centres, we discuss the risks of the surgery with you prior to your procedure. Proper pre-operative screening and testing is used to ensure that it is medically advisable for you to have PRK surgery. Diligent post-operative care helps to identify and address potential healing complications.

  • PRK healing is slower than LASIK and there is some discomfort for approximately 4-5 days
  • Patients are seen daily following the procedure until the surface layer heals into place
  • Patients do not typically see well enough to drive during this healing period but can often drive in about a week
  • Vision continues to improve over a few weeks