Wavefront is a word you are almost certain to encounter if you are considering laser eye surgery and most clinics will offer it as a premium add-on to both Lasik and Lasek treatments. There are some clinics who will offer wavefront as their standard treatment but they will inevitably charge more.
Wavefront is generally considered to be the gold standard in laser eye surgery as it increases the likelihood of achieving 20:20 vision. Arguably its biggest advantage, however, is the fact that it significantly reduces the risk of night vision problems which is still one of the most likely complications following surgery.
How is Standard Laser Eye Surgery & Wavefront Different?
With standard Lasik and Lasek, the laser treats the surface of the eye (cornea) in a similar way to spectacles or contact lenses. This is considered a ‘one size fits all’ treatment as it does not allow for the unique imperfections on the surface of your eye. When you need glasses or contact lenses it is because your cornea does not exactly focus the light entering your eye onto the retina. If you are longsighted your cornea is not powerful enough to focus the light onto the retina. If you are short-sighted your cornea is too powerful to focus the light onto the retina. Glasses, contact lenses and standard laser eye surgery aim to re-focus this light so that it falls perfectly onto the retina.
The only problem correcting your vision this way is that your cornea is not the exact same power right across its entire surface. Think of the cornea like the many ripples on a pond. From a distance, it appears flat, but when you get up close there are lots of individual peaks and troughs. Glasses, contact lenses and standard laser eye surgery all take an average of these peaks and troughs and provide a standard one size fits all vision correction. Wavefront technology, however, is different, as it takes many precise measurements right across the surface of your eye compared with only one point of your eye in standard treatment. The machine used to measure these aberrations is called an Aberrometer and all laser eye surgery clinics will have one. There are many different manufacturers of Aberrometer (e.g.Technolas Perfect Vision Zywave) but they all pretty much do the same thing.
The Aberrometer measures your individual visual imperfections from the centre of your cornea to the outer edge of your pupil which takes into account the fact that your pupils enlarge at night. The resulting information from the Aberrometer is then used to generate your ‘wavefront map’ which effectively illustrates your eyes unique visual errors. This information is then used to calculate your personalised treatment profile ensuring that the laser is applied to perfectly eliminate all these imperfections. Think of wavefront technology as accurately measuring all of the different peaks and troughs on your cornea and then treating them accordingly.
Is Wavefront Always Better?
Although wavefront is considered the gold standard treatment in laser eye surgery there may be some instances where you will get just as good results with the standard procedure. Everyone’s eyes naturally have differing amounts of night vision aberrations which is why some people complain about problems driving at night and some people don’t. During a laser eye surgery consultation, your visual aberrations will be measured and if they are found to be minimal then you may not necessarily benefit from wavefront treatment.
With the older generation of lasers, wavefront would still have been considered a better option as they tended to make night vision problems worse, regardless of what your pre-surgery aberrations were. However, with the latest generation of lasers, they have been developed taking this acquired wavefront data into account, meaning the laser ablation profiles have been updated to reflect this. This means that the latest generation of lasers does not significantly increase night vision problems following surgery.
What is The Cost of Wavefront Laser Eye Surgery?
What Are The Main Advantages of Wavefront?
- Better night vision/less glare: A Wavescan Aberrometer is used to measure many different locations across the whole cornea, taking into account peripheral points which are important when the pupils enlarge in low light levels. Using this information, night vision problems are significantly reduced following surgery. Examples of night vision problems are glare, haloes and starbursts.
- More Accurate: Wavefront is more accurate giving you the best possible visual outcome. There is a higher chance of achieving 20:20 vision when compared with standard laser eye surgery. Wavefront is especially recommended for people with high prescriptions and those with large pupils.
- Better quality of vision: Wavefront improves not only how much you can see (how low down the chart you can read at the opticians) but also how well you can see it. E.g. The quality of your vision. Wavefront does this by reducing your eyes higher-order aberrations (these reduce the quality of your vision). Higher-order aberrations are responsible for reduced night vision, doubling/ghosting around images, glare and haloes around lights and starbursts. If you eliminate these, the quality of your vision improves. You can read more about night vision and laser eye surgery in this helpful guide.
- Less chance of a laser enhancement: With Wavefront there is a lower chance of needing a laser enhancement (re-treatment).