TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. — Airmen who are sick of living day to day with their glasses or contacts have an opportunity to leave them behind.
The Warfighter Refractive Surgery Center at the David Grant USAF Medical Center here currently has no waiting list for laser eye surgery.
Airmen in the western region who want to eliminate their dependency on glasses or contacts are encouraged to travel to Travis for laser eye surgery. According to Air Force Instruction 48-123, active duty members may be authorized a unit-funded or permissive temporary duty for treatment.
For Airmen to receive the surgical benefit under the U.S. Air Force Refractive Surgery program, they must be treated at a Warfighter Refractive Surgery Center located at select Department of Defense facilities world-wide. If an active duty member wishes to receive the treatment outside of a DoD facility, the member will incur all out-of-pocket costs and will not be authorized convalescent leave, as the surgery itself is considered an elective procedure.
By having the surgery at an approved facility, Airmen avoid surgery costs of more than $3,000, ensure a permissive or unit funded TDY status to receive the treatment, and guarantee the benefit of convalescent leave following the procedure.
Lt. Col. David Simon, Laser Refractive Center cornea and refractive surgery chief, said the DGMC at Travis has highly experienced and qualified surgeons on staff as well as state-of-the-art equipment, not yet available at other bases. The laser refractive center surgeons have a combined experience of more than 10,000 cases.
“Any member on active duty over the age of 21 may have a consult to see if they qualify and are a good candidate for the surgery,” said Simon. “Airmen must have six months retainability or one year for members of the Navy and Marine Corps and 18 months for Soldiers.”
Simon said, although laser eye surgery has been around since the 1980s, the military didn’t support the idea until about 15 years ago.
Aviators and troops on the ground who required glasses were having difficulties in deployed environments, as night-vision goggles were difficult to use when glasses and gas-mask inserts fogged. Such limitations created ineffective warfighters, causing the military to support laser-eye surgery, Simon said.
The Warfighter Refractive Surgery Center at DGMC offers two types of refractive surgery: laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis and photorefractive keratectomy. Both surgeries change the way images are focused on the retina to improve vision quality.
Individuals must have a commander’s authorization, because LASIK patients are non-deployable for at least 31 days following surgery and PRK patients can be non-deployable for up to four months, Simon said.
“There are subtle differences between LASIK and PRK,” said Simon. “We refer to LASIK as ‘flap and zap’ and PRK as ‘zap’ so images focus better on the back of the eye.”
The recovery time of the two procedures varies as well. The recovery time for LASIK is about one week with some discomfort, while PRK is a couple weeks with more discomfort.
One of the biggest differences is that LASIK creates a potential weak point in the eye. It is not for individuals who are in hand-to-hand combat, which is why PRK is now the military standard, Simon said.
“Three months after surgery, patient results are the same,” Simon said. “The average vision outcome for individuals is that 95 percent of them have 20/20 vision or better six months after treatment.”
Senior Airman Jeremy Daniel, 60th Maintenance Squadron inspection section, recently underwent laser eye surgery to correct his vision.
“For me, the whole process was quick and painless,” said Daniels. “I noticed a difference in my vision right away. I love that I got the surgery. I would do it again in a heartbeat no questions asked. It was definitely one of the best things I have done.”
Airmen interested in laser eye surgery should call DGMC at 707-423-3146 or visit http://airforcemedicine.afms.mil/travis_lrc.