Is SMILE surgery really safe?

 “SMILE surgery is very popular these days, but it just came out. Is it really safe?”

– International patient at B&VIIT Eye Center

This is a question we get asked frequently by our patients as they are curious about this latest, newest refractive surgery technique.

Well, let us begin from the origin of SMILE surgery.

SMILE is the latest advance in laser refractive surgery that helps reshape the eyes and makes it possible for the light to pass through eyeballs and focus on the retina, and it originated from Germany.

Here is the principle of SMILE surgery:

1. Small incision up to 2mm made by a femtosecond laser.

2. Laser creates a thin lenticule inside the cornea.

3. Surgeon removes the lenticule through the incision to change the shape of the cornea.

The first generation laser eye surgery is LASEK, which is a procedure that is required to remove the outer layer of the cornea with the laser. Although it is a safe procedure, downtime for LASEK is longer it causes pain and discomfort.

So within a few years, a Greek doctor by the name of Ioannis Pallikaris was exploring about how to do a pain-free operation, and developed LASIK. After LASIK came out, it became the most commonly performed laser vision correction procedure in the US and as it has a much quicker and more comfortable recovery period compared to LASEK.

Then finally came SMILE, the latest one-step refractive procedure which combines advantages of LASEK and LASIK. SMILE is a painless procedure which involves neither making flaps nor burning of the cornea. The eye specialists take the help of lasers to reshape the corneal layers while leaving the surface completely untouched.

Figure 1: The Three Generations
of Laser Vision Correction
(Carl Zeiss Meditec AG, 2015)

Visual recovery is quite rapid for SMILE, and after one to two days most patients have 20/20 vision. With no postoperative restrictions and lower risks of scarring and dryness of the eyes, SMILE patients can go back to all normal activities, including wearing makeup and working out, the next day. For that reason, SMILE has become a first-choice option for many patients. As of October 2021, the cumulative number of SMILE surgeries worldwide exceeded 5,000,000 as it has become one of the most popular refractive surgeries in the world. 

So who was the founder of this state-of-the-art refractive surgery you might ask? A German Professor Walter Sekundo is one of the pioneers of the SMILE surgery, as 14 years have passed since he started his first SMILE surgery in Germany in 2006. When SMILE first came out, even the doctor who had operated before were very reluctant since it was a very difficult operation back in 2006 when Professor Sekundo performed the SMILE operation.  However many trials and experiences were accumulated, the performance of the equipment was improved, and because of all of this hard work and process, the result of SMILE surgery became wonderful and stable as it is now.

Dr. Ik-hee Ryu, who is one of B&VIIT Eye Center’s representative and an ophthalmologist made a visit to Jena, Germany, a world-class optical city to attend an event led by ZEISS headquarters. The purpose of this visit was to share the reasons and strategies for the remarkable success of SMILE surgery, which is making great achievements in Asia, especially at Gangnam B&VIIT Eye Center.

After meeting with ZEISS headquarters, Dr. Ryu met Professor Sekundo, who is called the “father” of SMILE, and exchanged opinions on the development direction of SMILE surgery. After meeting with Professor Sekundo, Dr. Ryu pointed out that development of SMILE and refractive surgery is the future that ZEISS and B&VIIT must open together. B&VIIT Eye Center promise to create a market for vision correction surgery that enables safer and more precise surgery through continuous research with Professor Sekundo as well as ZEISS, the developer of SMILE in the future.

Published by B&VIIT EYE CENTER

B&VIIT Eye Center is an ultra-modern, Korea's representative ophthalmic clinic that has successfully accomplished vision correction surgeries on over 500,000 eyes for 27 years.

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