Information on the Cost of LASIK


The most common question potential LASIK patients ask is "how much does it cost?" Patients in the initial phases of exploration often times assume that LASIK is LASIK and that a reasonable way of choosing a LASIK provider is to inquire about price. After just a few calls, the patient soon becomes bewildered about the variety of prices and options available. Why is there such a wide disparity in LASIK prices? In short, the answer is the level of service and technology provided.

LASIK is a procedure that has been around since the early 1990's. Over the years the procedure has evolved with improvements in technology that have made the procedure safer and more successful. But some providers continue to offer older technology and techniques at a discounted price. In addition, some LASIK chains emerged that had as a business model discounted price by relying more on technicians to provide some of the care associated with the LASIK procedure.  Some unscrupulous LASIK providers are guilty of bait-and-switch tactics.  They advertise an incredibly low price for LASIK but offer incomplete services or limit the type of patient who can get the advertised price.  After getting you in the door they may apply high pressure sales techniques in an effort to commit to a deal that they claim you can't receive unless you "sign on the dotted line" before you leave.

When inquiring about price, the LASIK consumer should know that the price advertised or quoted is per eye. Most patients will have both eyes corrected. A standard LASIK procedure in the US averages about $1400 per eye including pre-op care, post-op care and enhancements, if necessary. An enhancement is essentially a second LASIK procedure if you and the surgeon are not satisfied with the outcome of the first procedure.  Many LASIK discount centers will offer "teaser rates" with plenty of hidden catches to lure patients in but quickly escalate the final fee by charging a facility fee, post-op fees and other surcharges. The addition of newer innovations such as IntraLase blade-free technology or wavefront guided technology can increase the cost by another $1000, or more, per eye.

When inquiring about LASIK costs, the consumer should be sure to ask if there are additional fees for care before and after the procedure. The patient should also be clear about any additional fees if a second, enhancement, or touch-up procedure is necessary. If enhancement procedures are provided without additional charge, how long is the agreement good for and what requirements does the patient need to meet to qualify for an enhancement?  Some LASIK centers may stipulate that they are the sole determiners as to the need for an enhancement.

By now it should be apparent that all LASIK procedures and surgeons are not equal. Your selection of LASIK provider should based on more than just price. LASIK is a surgical procedure. In providing a medical service, there are a number of factors that play a role in the cost for the procedure.

As a general rule, the more surgeon-patient interaction there is, the higher the cost. The reason is that lower fees require that many more patients need to be treated in order to generate the same level of income as fewer patients at a higher fee. Some discount LASIK providers increase patient volume by passing on some responsibilities to ancillary personnel. Unfortunately, these non-physician providers may not be qualified to make decisions as to the appropriateness of LASIK or recognize abnormalities.

There are other factors that can account for differences in cost even if you meet the surgeon at the preoperative consultation and at every visit after surgery. Typically, the more surgeon experience or the better the reputation of the surgeon, the higher the fee. In other words, the greater the expertise, the more you can expect to pay. As with any profession, some surgeons are more skilled than others which includes not only surgical expertise, but also diagnostic expertise as well. Keep in mind that LASIK is not always the best procedure for everyone. Some patients may be better suited for other procedures such as implantable lenses and some patients should not have surgery at all.

The specific surgical equipment and physical plant is another cost factor. There are several studies that confirm that a properly calibrated up-to-date laser and an environmentally controlled room is essential to good LASIK outcomes. The surgical suite should have a separate heating and cooling unit from the rest of the clinic. Humidity should also be strictly controlled. An air filtration system may have some impact on outcomes. There are several different manufacturers of flap making devices and lasers to perform the procedure all with varied prices and associated costs. Traditionally the LASIK flap is made with an instrument with a blade called a microkeratome. An all-laser IntraLase LASIK or blade-free LASIK procedure is safer and more precise than a standard LASIK but costs more. A wave-front guided procedure or Custom-Vue procedure costs more than a wavefront-optimized procedure which, in-turn, costs more than a conventional LASIK. The more expensive techniques tend to give a higher likelihood of spectacle independence. lower risk of needing enhancements and fewer side-effects such as night-time driving difficulties.

It should be apparent that it is impossible to compare apples to apples. Not all LASIK procedures or LASIK providers are equal and that there are varied degrees of medical technology, surgeon skills and levels of care. Patients should not shortchange themselves by shopping for the lowest price. LASIK eye surgery is an investment which pays for itself many times over compared to the costs of years of glasses and contact lenses. Take the time to do your research. In most cases, it is better to finance or put off the procedure until the money can be procured for better technology and care rather than settle for cheaper inferior technology or level of service.

A free ebook discussing differences in LASIK technology is available at:

Figure 1.  Microkeratome (left) and IntraLase laser                                                                                                                                                (right).

Website Builder