What Does Lasik Cost?

The saying “you get what you pay for” is as true of LASIK surgery as it is about almost everything else. With laser eye centers advertising LASIK at prices ranging from under $500 per eye to over $2500 per eye, one often wonders what causes such a wide spread in rates. The low advertised prices that seem too low to be true, are usually just that. Very few people pay less than $1000 per eye because most people don’t fit the very narrow profile that would qualify them for the advertised price. In fact, the average price of LASIK in 2005 was almost $2000 per eye.

What factors determine the cost of LASIK surgery?

Many factors influence what an individual ends up paying for laser eye surgery – and since many of these same factors can also affect the outcome and results of the surgery, it is important to compare services as well as cost.

  • LASIK Procedures – with newer technologies come higher costs – and better results
  • Equipment – quality equipment and properly maintained equipment costs more – but it also works better
  • Surgeon – you pay more for experience and expertise, but experienced laser eye surgeons also average better results
  • Prescription – the greater the amount of vision correction needed, the more it can cost
  • Geography – prices of LASIK can vary from region to region
  • Pricing Structure – what is included in the quoted price – everything (such as pre-screening, tests, exams, all follow-up appointments, medications) or just the actual surgery

Advances in LASIK Technology

Two advances in laser eye surgery are procedures known as Wavefront and IntraLase. These techniques are perfecting the LASIK procedure, and while they are improving patient results they also cost more than conventional laser eye surgery. The higher costs are necessary to cover the expense of purchasing and maintaining the newer equipment.

Wavefront technology allows the laser treatment to be customized to each LASIK patient, and usually averages about $300 to $500 more per eye than conventional LASIK.

The IntraLase procedure is a bladeless method of cutting the corneal flap. With conventional LASIK, the surgeon cuts the flap with a knife called a microkeratome. With IntraLase, a computer guided laser cuts the flap. IntraLase is usually from $250 to $500 more per eye than conventional LASIK.

LASIK Equipment

The laser machines used for laser eye surgery are not all the same. LASIK equipment is made by several different manufacturers and each manufacturer may offer several different models. As companies continue to improve their technology, they also produce newer equipment. These machines are very expensive – to purchase, to maintain, and to use. Proper maintenance and calibration is necessary to ensure accurate results. Royalty fees must also be paid to the manufacturer for each patient that receives treatment, in addition to the purchase price.

While differences exist between machines, better outcomes are determined more by the experience of the surgeon than the brand of equipment being used. Of note, however, is that each machine has it’s own range of prescription capabilities. This is a measurement that a doctor should be aware of, however, and should let you know the best course of treatment for your eyes.

Discount Laser Eye Surgery

The low prices are tempting, but because of the consistent costs associated with the LASIK procedure, prices too low compared to the average should be signal of caution. It could be a sign that older equipment is being used, or perhaps shortcuts are being taken on maintenance to reduce expenses. Usually, they are offering conventional LASIK and not the newer technologies. It may indicate lack of proper screening and testing or that the surgeon is newer and inexperienced. Also, while some doctors will charge one all-inclusive fee, other centers may itemize and bill separately for testing, exams, appointments, medications, surgery, doctor fees, and other hidden fees. It is not to say that some people haven’t been treated successfully at discount centers because many have, but it is important to be aware of the differences so you can make an informed decision.

When Considering LASIK, Consider More Than Cost

Your eyesight is important! When choosing a laser eye surgeon, consider quality of care, equipment, technology, and expertise. Find a doctor that carefully pre-screens and properly evaluates your eyes to make sure you are a good candidate for laser eye surgery. Ask what items are included in the quoted cost and what other costs may be incurred. While no one wants to pay more than they have to for laser eye surgery, the decision for laser eye surgery should not be based on price alone but on what will help you achieve the best possible LASIK results.