Before he had surgery last year, Mitch Ferro thought he knew everything
he needed to about Lasik. His older brother, a physician, had the procedure in
Baltimore and raved about how easy it was and how well he could see. "I figured
surgery was a no-brainer," Ferro recalled.
He figured wrong.
Ferro now considers having laser eye surgery to be one of the worst
mistakes he ever made. "Believe me, I've never felt regret like this. I'd give
anything to have my old corneas back," he said.
As a consequence of surgery, the 32-year-old product manager for a
Northern Virginia Internet company suffers from a host of visual problems, some
of them unfixable. He has slight double vision in his left eye. He is no longer
nearsighted: because he was overcorrected, he is farsighted and now wears
glasses at night. In dim light or at night Ferro sees such severe halos and star
bursts around lights that in order to see well enough to drive, he must use
powerful, pupil-constricting eye drops that can lead to a detached
Ferro didn't expect any of this 10 months ago when he made an
appointment with a busy laser practice in Northern Virginia to which he was
referred by his brother's ophthalmologist. He said the ophthalmologist he
consulted told him he was an "excellent candidate" and could have surgery two
As part of his preoperative evaluation, Ferro watched a video that
discussed some of the potential complications of Lasik. "The technician told me,
'We've done thousands of eyes and we've never had a problem.' I read the consent
form and it listed all these [complications], but I didn't think much about it.
These days if you're skiing, you have to sign a waiver," he noted.
But Ferro, who was moderately astigmatic and severely nearsighted, said
he was never told that glare, halos and star bursts were more likely because of
his extremely large pupils. Nor was he told that these side effects also are
more common among people who have high levels of astigmatism or myopia, as he
Ferro also experienced a potentially serious surgical
complication--debris in the form of cells under the flap--that was not
discovered until three days after surgery.
Most doctors insist on seeing patients within 24 hours of surgery so
that problems can be detected and fixed as soon as possible. Although Ferro had
surgery on a Friday, his first appointment was not scheduled until the following
Monday. He said that when he called on Sunday complaining of severely blurred
vision, he was told not to worry and to wait until Monday.
That's when the surgeon discovered the debris and scraped it out. But
when the flap was replaced, it wrinkled. A wrinkled flap can cause significant
and uncorrectable visual problems.
Since then Ferro has consulted with several ophthalmologists about
whether his eyes can be fixed. Last month he flew to Chicago to consult a
specialist, who told him that an experimental treatment not yet approved by the
FDA might help. For now, Ferro must wait.
"In retrospect I think that if I'd gone to a more careful
surgeon, I would have been told not to have surgery," said Ferro, who requested
that the doctor not be named. "I think a lot of doctors are not properly
screening patients. When I realized what I had done, I lost 10 pounds and went
through months of anxiety and depression. I kept thinking, 'What have I done to
my eyes?' "