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Home > Patients & Visitors > Health Library > Radial Keratotomy (RK) for Nearsightedness
Radial keratotomy (RK) is a surgery to correct nearsightedness. It involves making tiny
cuts in the
cornea to flatten it. This can help improve distance vision. The surgeon may make
more cuts to the cornea if you also have
done in a surgeon's office or a same-day
surgery center. Before surgery, your eye will be numbed with eyedrops (local anesthesia).
How well surgery works on the first eye may
affect how surgery is done on the second eye. That's why many surgeons wait up to 6 weeks before
treating the second eye. This delay also reduces the risk of spreading an infection to the second eye. While you wait for the second surgery,
you will probably be fitted with a contact lens for the untreated eye. Wearing glasses with two very different prescriptions would cause
Surgery on one eye takes about 10 to 15 minutes. You will need someone to drive you home. You will also need a ride to the surgeon's office the next day.
The surgeon will check your eye the day after surgery. You will have more follow-up
visits throughout the first year
After surgery, you
may wear a patch or contact lens on the eye. You may get a prescription for pain
medicine and for eyedrops to prevent infection and reduce swelling.
In the first 3 months after
surgery, your vision may vary slightly over the
course of a day. This may last for up to 1 year.
RK is done to correct
nearsightedness. It may
astigmatism. But RK is not done very often. Laser surgeries have become more common than surgeries that involve cutting.
RK may be an option if you have healthy eyes with
mild-to-moderate nearsightedness (up to about 3
diopters) that is not getting worse with time.
RK may not be an option if you have:
RK works well to reduce mild-to-moderate
nearsightedness. But it does not always completely
fix this problem. You are more likely to still need corrective lenses after surgery if you had moderate-to-high nearsightedness before surgery.
The greatest problems with RK surgery are that:
The most common problems from radial keratotomy (RK) include:
RK changes the shape of the eye, so you may not be able to wear
contact lenses after surgery. Also, RK weakens the cornea and makes it easier to injure. This is not the
case with other eye surgeries.
Less common problems include:
Very rare problems include glaucoma, puncture or
rupture of the
cornea, and infection of the cornea. Infection
may occur right after the surgery or up to 3 years later.
It's a good idea to talk to your doctor about all your treatment options. These may include PRK, LASEK, epi-LASIK, LASIK, corneal
ring implants, and intraocular lens implants. Your doctor
can help you understand the risks and benefits of each so you can make the best decision.
Most people choose PRK, LASEK, epi-LASIK, or LASIK surgery instead of RK. But RK still works very well for mild nearsightedness and in some other cases.
RK leaves scars on the cornea. These scars may cause problems if you need another type of eye surgery later in
life, such as cataract removal.
RK surgery is an
elective procedure. That means it's something that you can choose to have done, but it's not medically needed. It also means that most insurance companies will not pay for the surgery. Cost varies, but it can be high.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineSpecialist Medical ReviewerChristopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
Current as ofAugust 21, 2015
Current as of:
August 21, 2015
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Christopher J. Rudnisky, MD, MPH, FRCSC - Ophthalmology
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