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My regular eye doctor recommended several eye surgeons. I talked to them all and chose a surgeon who made me feel comfortable about my surgery.”

 

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How to Choose a Surgeon


The choice of an ophthalmologist is as personal as the decision to have eye surgery. Many patients have their eye surgeon picked out right from the start. Others only begin looking for an eye surgeon once they’re sure they want to have treatment.

Below are a few important tips to help you find the right eye doctor for your needs. Keep in mind that there are no absolute right or wrong answers. Ultimately it is up to you to decide which provider offers the style of care that suits your needs.

What’s the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?

    Optometrists are trained to provide primary eye care services, such as eye health and vision examinations, diagnosis of vision problems and eye diseases and prescribing eyeglasses, contact lenses and some medications.

    Ophthalmologists, on the other hand, are eye surgeons. They are medical doctors who have completed four years of medical school, an internship and three or more years of training in surgery and the treatment of eye diseases.

    Only an ophthalmologist can perform eye surgery, including all of the surgeries described throughout this site.

Finding an ophthalmologist

    There are many ways you can find a qualified ophthalmologist to perform eye surgery. Many people start with word of mouth recommendations. Check if friends and family know a surgeon they’d recommend.

    You can also use our surgeon locator to identify ASCRS ophthalmologists near you.

    You may want to search several directories as you look for an eye surgeon, in order to gather a more complete picture of the surgeons available in your area. Most of these sites do not check participating physician credentials, so be sure to research their credentials thoroughly prior to making a final decision.

    Choosing the ophthalmologist who is right for you

    As you’re reviewing candidate eye surgeons in your area, there are several things about each doctor you should consider.

Level of experience

    It’s important to gain an overall sense of the eye surgeon’s experience with the procedures you’re considering, because experience can improve outcomes. For example, studies show that LASIK outcomes improve dramatically after an ophthalmologist performs LASIK on more than 200 eyes.

    Also, ask any eye surgeon you’re considering if and how they track outcomes. If he or she has readily available numbers, charts and graphs or can quote specific outcomes, there is a good chance that the surgeon is benchmarking. This reflects well on his or her commitment to quality and continual improvement.

Style of care

    Every medical practice is different, so another important way to screen potential eye surgeons is to learn how their practice approaches patient care - from the pre-operative protocol through post-operative visits.

    Here are some questions you can ask to help determine a practice’s style of care:

    1. Is this strictly a cataracts or refractive surgery center or a full-service ophthalmic practice offering refractive surgery as one of its specialties?
    2. How many times will I see the ophthalmologist prior to surgery?
    3. Who will be my main contact at the office? (Surgeon? Nurse? Care Coordinator?)
    4. What will happen at my initial screening exam? Do you perform the full range of tests for all patients to confirm eligibility?
    5. Who will perform follow-up examinations?
    6. What are the qualifications of the person providing follow-up care?
    7. If you are considering LASIK surgery, you should also ask: What percentage of LASIK candidates do you turn away? (Surgeons who screen carefully will turn away more than 10% of candidates.)

    There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. The goal is to find a practice with an approach that suits your needs.

Professional credentials

    It is also important to screen an ophthalmologist’s professional credentials - even if he or she was recommended by a friend or relative.

    Ask about:

    • Training and education
    • Certifications - board certifications and manufacturer certifications on advanced technologies
    • Professional memberships and important offices held
    • Teaching, research and writing activities
    • Awards
    • Reputation

Although no single criterion will help you make your choice, a holistic evaluation of the eye surgeon’s experience, style of care and professional credentials should help you feel comfortable with the ophthalmologist you choose.

To find qualified surgeons near you, use our surgeon locator.

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Glossary

Not sure what a particular term means? Click on words in bold to pull up the glossary tab.

Related Content

Glossary Entries

Benchmarking
Comparing processes and performance metrics to standard or best practices. Measures relative effectiveness. For eye surgeons, performance metrics may include costs, cycle time, productivity and quality of patient outcomes. Helps physicians, patients and third parties understand where a medical practice or procedure is in relation to a particular standard and to plan improvements.

LASIK (laser in-situ keratomileusis) surgery
Type of laser surgery in which the cornea is reshaped to improve vision. Either a microkeratome or a femtosecond laser is used to surgically create a thin, hinged flap of corneal tissue. The flap is folded back, and an excimer laser is directed to the corneal surface exposed beneath the flap to reshape the cornea for corrected vision. Then the flap is brought back into place.

Ophthalmologist
Doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (D.O.) who is qualified to diagnose, manage and treat all eye and visual system disorders. An ophthalmologist is trained to render total eye care, including vision services, contact lenses, eye examinations, medical eye care and surgical eye care.

Refractive surgery
Any surgical procedure that attempts to decrease the patient's refractive error (irregularities in the eye that prevent correct focus). LASIK surgery is a common type of refractive surgery as is lens replacement.

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