New laser vision correction procedure approved

LEAWOOD, Kan. -- The number of people having Lasik surgery to correct vision has dropped in recent years. Possible reasons include the economy, the popularity of glasses and more wariness of surgery in the younger generation. Now some doctors hope to revive the market with a newly approved procedure called Smile that's a little different from Lasik.

Greg Tucker was looking for convenience.

"I got tired of wearing contacts every day and having to take 'em out," Tucker said.

At Discover Vision, Tucker had his vision corrected in the right eye with Lasik. At the same time, his left eye was part of a study of Smile. It's just been FDA approved for nearsightedness. Smile stands for small incision lenticule extraction. It's flapless laser eye surgery. A laser is used to separate a disc of tissue within the cornea to flatten it and improve vision. The disc is removed through a small incision made by the laser.

"We do an incision that's about one-sixth the size of what we do with Lasik," Dr. John Doane said.

No flap is created. Dr. Doane thinks it will raise interest in laser vision correction which has been on the decline.

"I cannot imagine it wouldn't have some interest for people that have been skittish with large incision Lasik," Dr. Doane said.

He said it will appeal to people whose jobs or sports put them at higher risk of a flap coming loose, although it happens infrequently.

Tucker said with no flap, recovery was quicker in his Smile eye.

"After day one, I could tell that my left eye, my Smile study eye was a lot better. Not as gritty, not as sandy," he said.

Although he added that his vision was a tad slower to improve in that eye.

"Once you get out to a week and month, the visual results are essentially equivalent," Dr. Doane said.

For Tucker, it's better than 20/20.

Dr. Doane thinks the price of Smile will be about the same as Lasik -- an average of $2,000 an eye. Smile goes on the market in a few months.