Radial Keratotomy

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Radial keratotomy is one of the older forms of surgical vision correction. This surgery has been performed since the 1970s. Today, alternatives include laser procedures such as LASIK and PRK.

Radial keratotomy utilizes a very fine diamond surgical blade in order to make several radial incisions along the outermost layer of the cornea, the front surface of the eye. These incisions alter the shape of the cornea so that light refracts correctly on the retina. While laser surgery is quickly becoming the norm, some conditions are more appropriately treated with this older procedure.

If you're considering radial keratotomy, the following information will provide you with a good introduction to the procedure. For more detailed information about how this procedure may help you, we recommend that you consult an eye physician who is board certified or has completed a residency program that includes instruction in this procedure.


*The average cost of Radial Keratotomy is between $300-500 per eye.

*Today, about 250,000 RK surgeries are performed annually in the United States, up from 30,000 operations just five years ago.

Radial Keratotomy is a Long-term effects procedure.









  1. What are some of the most common benefits of this procedure?
  2. How is Radial Keratotomy (RK) performed?
  3. How long does it take?
  4. Where will the procedure be performed?
  5. How much pain is there?
  6. What can I expect after the procedure?
  7. What is the recovery period like?
  8. What is the long-term outcome for most people?
  9. Ideal candidate
  10. Important information
  11. Risks and limitations


What are some of the most common benefits of Radial Keratotomy?

Radial keratotomy has successfully improved or corrected eyesight for people with mild myopia (nearsightedness). Many people no longer need to wear glasses or contacts. Most of the time, eye surgery procedures will correct vision enough to allow the individual to drive without the corrective lenses restriction. For people with mild myopia (between one and four diopters), radial keratotomy is 85 percent effective at restoring 20/40 vision and 50 percent effective at restoring 20/20 vision.

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How is RK surgery performed?

Your doctor will begin by administering special anesthetic eye drops. With a special instrument, he/she will mark the spots where incisions will be made. Measurements will be made to determine the thickness of your cornea. Finally, under a microscope, the doctor will make the incisions on the surface of your eye.

The incisions usually follow a wheel-spoke pattern. The cuts weaken the outer layer of the cornea, and the pressure from inside the eye causes the weakened spots to arc or bend, thus reshaping the cornea and correcting the vision.

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How long does it take?

Preparation for radial keratotomy can take about 15 to 30 minutes. The entire procedure is usually over in less than one hour and typically both eyes are done on the same visit.

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Where will the procedure be performed?

Radial keratotomy is most often performed in a surgical suite on an outpatient basis. Most eye surgeries are performed under local anesthesia, like that used by dentists, except that this anesthetic is in the form of eye drops. A mild sedative is usually administered orally before surgery as well. Patients are usually allowed to return home immediately afterward.

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How much pain is there?

The amount of pain experienced varies from person to person. However, for most people, post-operative pain is relatively mild. Any discomfort will be alleviated by an anti-inflamitory eye-drops that have a similar feeling as the anesthetic drop or oral pain medication may be taken.

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What can I expect after the procedure?

After the procedure, you may experience some mild discomfort or increased light sensitivity. Most people experience redness in the operated eye, but this should disappear within several days.

Following RK surgery, patients usually experience some fluctuation in vision. Higher degrees of correction typically produce more pronounced fluctuations. No two people experience results at exactly the same rate. Some are able to see with improved vision the very next day, and others find that their vision improves slowly, over several weeks.

Your doctor will prescribe special eye drops for the first several days following the procedure. These drops will help prevent infection and inflammation.

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What is the recovery period like?

The recovery period for RK eye surgery is relatively quick. Short-term side effects such as sensitivity to light usually disappear within a couple of days. Any pain in the days following the surgery can be alleviated with lubricating artificial drops and anti-inflamitory drops.

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What is the long-term outcome for most people?

The long-term outcome for RK is generally good. Five-year studies show that most patients do not experience any loss of vision quality in that amount of time. A ten-year study showed that 85 percent of patients maintained 20/40 vision or better. But the study also showed that about 40 percent of patients began to show signs of hyperopia (farsightedness).

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Ideal candidate:

In general, the best candidates for RK are:

  • Knowledgeable about the procedure
  • In good physical and psychological health
  • Willing to follow directions for optimal results
  • Desire to improve lowlevels of myopia or nearsightedness
  • Realistic in their expectations and understand the risks and benefits.
  • Between –0.50 and –2.00 diapoters of nearsightedness.

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Important information:

There are several different alternatives to RK eye surgery. The use of lasers in eye correction surgery is becoming increasingly popular. PRK is one common laser surgery. The newer LASIK is also common; this procedure is generally considered to be faster, more precise, stable, and predictable with less chance of fluxuations and a hyperopic shift with time, with more rapid healing time. Another alternative, corneal implants, and implantable contact lenses.

If you are considering surgery to repair your vision, talk to your doctor about each of these alternatives, as well as your goals, budget, and pain tolerance, in order to help him/her determine the procedure, or combination of procedures, that will produce the best results for you.

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Risks and limitations:

No eye surgery comes with a guarantee of perfect eyesight. On rare occasion, results of the surgery are worse than before. However, most RK patients will achieve at least 20/40 vision after the surgery. Individuals with more severe sight impairment should expect less from the surgery than those with modest impairment.

As with any surgical procedure, there are a number of risks that accompany RK surgery. Patients may experience scarring on the eye, which may produce a permanent glare or a starburst formation at night. One of the greatest risks associated with any form of eye surgery is the risk of infection. This can be minimized with eyedrops.

In order to have radial keratotomy eye surgery, you must be at least 18 years old, with no signs or symptoms of eye disease or abnormality. Your doctor should first give you a full eye exam to determine whether you are a good candidate for RK.

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The information on this web site is only intended as an introduction to this procedure and should not be used to determine whether you will have the procedure performed nor as a guarantee of the result. The best method of determining your options is to consult qualified surgeons who are able to answer specific questions related to your situation.

*Disclaimer: Source:, Most surgeons offer convenient payments plans for this procedure. Cost does not include anesthesia, operating room facility, hospital stay, and other related expenses. Costs may also vary depending on location.

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