How much does Laser Surgery Cost?
Many people wanting to have LASIK are confused about how much LASIK costs. They will see ads with unbelievable low prices such as $299/eye, and somehow think that the price has come down for LASIK. Unfortunately those ads are highly misleading, and in my opinion completely unethical, and unfortunately been going on for many years. People who do go to these centers end up being quoted a lot more, and are often very confused.
So why is this? What goes into the cost of a LASIK procedure? What are you getting for your money? If you pay more, is it “better?” How can someone tell, especially for something as important as their eyes?
LASIK is still a medical procedure, and although relatively quick and painless for the patient, it requires a skilled surgeon, updated and well-calibrated equipment, careful pre-operative measurements, careful follow-up, and a commitment to the patient. It is not as easy as just pushing a button and letting the laser do all of the work. If it was, monkeys could be trained to perform it and charge $99 per eye. The risk of major complications with LASIK is probably lower than with contact lens use, especially extended lens wear. Yet, untoward things do happen, and the better surgeons and centers look for these problems, take the time out of their busy schedules to pay special attention to these problems, and have the medical ethics to be aggressive and thorough in their treatment.
The cost of LASIK includes not only the procedure, but also the pre-care and after-care which should last for a year.
- It includes the cost of the person who gets your final correction parameters, which can be someone who is really good with lots of experience, or someone who is newer or not as experienced. (guess which costs more?)
- it can include enhancements for the year after the procedure in case an eye changes as the body compensates for the procedure (included for Dr. Motwani’spatients)
- It includes the after-care, which should lastfor a year. That includes taking care of any issues that arise, including dry eye, enhancements as above, and in Dr. Motwani’s office, care if something untoward happens such as getting hit in the eye in the healing period right after the surgery. This kind of important after-care can make or break the quality of your vision, and the outcome of your surgery. Depending on the center, it is done by an experienced eye surgeon, or an assistant, or an associated doctor, and often by someone without the experience to recognize an issue before it becomes a problem (guess what kind of aftercare costs more?)
- Long term care- if you have a center that doesn’t really do all of the above and track your progress properly, you may realize as you get older, and are able to compensate less, that your eyes are not doing as well. Most centers today charge you all over again to correct something after a few years. Dr. Motwani’s philosophy is radically different – get it right in the first place, make sure it’s right before the year of care is done, and for the few percent that may somehow change over time, charge them a very small fee to take care of it even years later.
- Who is actually getting paid adds to the cost of Lasik. Many optometrists who refer you to a particular surgeon are getting paid up to $1000 for that, and that adds to the cost of your Lasik.
- Technology- Let’s get something clear- the type of laser matters. To be very clear and candid, not so much the laser or device that makes the flap (that has no visual impact), but the laser that actually does the re-shaping of the cornea. There is a huge difference in between costs of excimer lasers. When Dr. Motwani bought the Allegretto Wave Eye-Q system, he could have bought a used VISX Star S4 system with its wavefront guided system for under $100,000, and was even offered a complete system for $75,000. He instead chose for the much more advanced technology of the Allegretto Wave Eye-Q system which wasn’t available used, and cost $400,000. Does this make a different in the cost of the procedure? Yes! Better technology just costs more. Whether or not someone wishes to pay for that is a personal decision.
- Owning your own excimer laser costs a lot more than using someone else’s, or using an open access laser. The difference is that those who own their laser understand it better, use it more, and are more likely to get the best outcomes from a machine they are intimately familiar with.
- A surgeon’s staff plays a big role. A good staff makes the patient feel better cared for, better educated, and makes the patient feel more comfortable with an anxiety provoking procedure. A good staff has to be factored into the cost of Lasik.
- A well maintained, modern, comfortable, clean, well-equipped center that’s easily accessible. Most patients don’t have any issues, but the few who need access to a center where they will be taken care of, they can get to, and with a surgeon who can recognize, diagnose, and treat their issue without going someplace else. A good center always adds to the cost of Lasik. For example, traveling to Mexico for your Lasik may get you a better price, but what happens if you have a problem? Are you willing to travel across that border multiple times? What does that cost in time, travel expense, and safety?
- Finally, the surgeon is a big part of the cost of Lasik. Will that surgeon do your exams themselves, get the measurements themselves, and have the experience to pick the best procedure for you? A good experienced surgeon has to be factored into the cost of Lasik.
In other words, the cost of Lasik has to factor in a lot more than the procedure. It has to factor in the preparatory care, the year of aftercare, the surgeon who does it, who does the measurements, who does the after-care, the type of equipment, the type of center, the location of the center, the staff at the center, and finally the security of knowing that the center and surgeon will be there long term just in case they are needed. Lasik is a great procedure, and the vast majority of patients do very well without a lot of after-care, but the surgeon and the center really come into play for the few who may need more.
So remember that when you choose your Lasik surgeon and center, there’s a lot of different things that you are paying for that go into a successful procedure on your eyes. Done right, there is nothing better than that sense of liberation and freedom of no longer being dependent on “visual crutches” to see.