August 2017


Study shows military readiness
improves after refractive surgery

by Rich Daly EyeWorld Contributing Writer

Readiness of members of U.S. military improved after they underwent refractive surgery, according to recent research

Although clinical tests typically assess postop visual performance, the authors of an assessment of members of the military wanted to understand the impact of refractive procedures in a military setting, where service members may be subjected to unique visual demands, said Rose Sia, MD, one of the authors of the research presented as a poster at the 2017 ASCRS•ASOA Symposium & Congress. The poster received an honorable mention from the symposium’s judges.
Dr. Sia noted that the U.S. military is one of the largest refractive surgery providers in the country and performs about one in five procedures nationally.1
The study enrolled 360 active duty members of the military with refractive error and compared their preop military performance questionnaire with one given 6 months postop. The mean age was nearly 30, 91% were male, mean manifest sphere was –2.60 ± 1.92 D, and mean manifest cylinder was –0.74 ± 0.66 D. Treatments included 66.9% undergoing PRK, 31.9% undergoing LASIK, and 0.3% receiving an implantable collamer lens. Three patients were not treated.
The patients were assessed at 6 months postop on eight measures—including “weapons sighting ability” and “ability to function at night”—using a 5-point scale to range from “very bad” to “very good.”
“The median scores were 5 in all measures, meaning they were improved compared to their preop scores,” Dr. Sia said.
Postop results improved for most respondents in each measure. For instance, 57% improved their scores on “overall individual readiness,” 41% improved their scores on “ability to contribute to the unit’s mission,” 86% improved their scores on “ability to utilize night vision goggles,” and 65% improved their scores on “ability to function at night.”
The study also sought the experience of deployed service members.
Among the 27 members of the survey group who deployed before and after refractive surgery, 21, or 77%, reported improvement in their visual capabilities and readiness.
Additionally, if they were given the opportunity to do the procedure over, 167 out of 169, or 98.8%, would have the surgery again, the study found.
“Active duty U.S. military felt their vision after undergoing refractive surgery significantly improved their military readiness and capabilities,” Dr. Sia said. “The majority of them were satisfied with the surgery they underwent.”


1. Donnenfeld E. Improving the safety and efficacy of military personnel and first responders. Accessed November 28, 2016.

Editors’ note: Dr. Sia has no financial interests related to her comments. The views expressed in this article are those of Dr. Sia and her co-authors and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of the Army/Navy/Air Force, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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