If you’re considering laser eye surgery, you’ve probably come across the types of laser eye surgery that are available in New Zealand – LASIK, PRK, and SMILE. These all have their own associated benefits for correcting different types of eyesight.

SMILE is the newer refractive surgery of the three and has quickly become our preferred surgery to correct short sight and short sight with astigmatism in most cases.

Keep reading to learn more about SMILE laser eye surgery and the benefits it could have for you and your eyes!

What Is SMILE?

Female Smiling

Small Incision Lenticule Extraction, more commonly known as SMILE, is one of the laser techniques we offer at the Wellington Eye Centre. SMILE surgery uses a specialised laser called the VisuMax® femtosecond laser, which was developed in Germany by Carl Zeiss Meditec. SMILE surgery is designed to correct short sight, as well as short sight with astigmatism. Although it is the newest refractive surgery, this is all done with proven technology – no experimental practices involved!

The Wellington Eye Centre is delighted to have been the first laser eye surgery clinic in New Zealand and the second in Australasia to offer SMILE surgery. We started offering SMILE surgery in 2014 at our laser eye surgery clinic in Wellington. Since then, Dr Andrew Logan has performed over one thousand SMILE surgeries (and counting)! SMILE surgery is also performed in The Middle East, America, Europe, India, Asia, and Australia.

We’re also proud to have installed the latest in technology from Carl Zeiss Meditec – the VISUMAX 800®. – keeping the Wellington Eye Centre at the forefront of laser technology.

What exactly happens in SMILE surgery?

SMILE surgery corrects short-sightedness by flattening the cornea. Using the VisuMax femtosecond laser, a small piece of tissue, called a lenticule, is cut in the centre of the cornea. About a 20-second task. Then a small keyhole incision is made on one side of the cornea. Which only measures about 2mm to 3mm. Once this has been done, Dr Logan creates an air pocket around the lenticule and uses forceps to remove this corneal tissue through the tiny incision. This part takes between 60 and 90 seconds. The SMILE procedure only takes about 2-3 minutes but will leave you with permanently corrected eyesight.

Laser eye surgery is painless. To ensure the surface of the eye is numb we apply anaesthetic eye drops prior to surgery.

The tiny incision on the cornea usually completely heals within 24 hours. This means patients only need to wait 72 hours to continue with their normal activities; including swimming and wearing makeup.  

The below image illustrates what happens in the procedure for each type of laser eye surgery. As you’ll see, there are fewer steps in SMILE surgery when compared to PRK and LASIK.

Image Showing The Difference Between PRK, LASIK and SMILE Laser Eye Surgeries

If you have any worries or questions about what happens in a laser eye surgery procedure, we’d be more than happy to talk you through it. Just get in touch!

Who Is Eligible For SMILE?

As with all of our laser eye procedures, all clients will receive an initial assessment to determine the type of laser eye surgery best suited to them. You can read more about what to expect in our free laser eye assessment on our blog.

SMILE is suited to short-sighted patients as well as short sight with astigmatism. Typically, it is recommended for people younger than 40 with myopia from -1.00D to -10.0D. As well as the degree of short-sightedness, there are a couple of other factors we consider when recommending SMILE.

SMILE is better for people who play high-contact sports like netball, rugby, and martial arts. This is because there’s an increased chance of eye trauma when coming into contact with another player. The same recommendation applies to people in the armed forces and police officers. Another consideration is whether or not the person will be at risk of dry eye symptoms post-surgery. Dry eye is a condition where there is a low quantity or quality of tear film – the substance that naturally lubricates and protects our eyes. There are various causes of dry eye and we will assess the potential impacts of this condition in your laser suitability assessment.

We often get asked can SMILE be used to correct long sight or presbyopia? Currently, the technology can not treat either of these refractive errors. However, Carl Zeiss Meditec is developing the SMILE technology and these types of corrections will likely be available in the future. 

SMILE vs LASIK – Which Is Better And Safer?

This is a common question we get asked at the clinic, and rightfully so!

As with all medical procedures, the technology and procedure itself are fully tested and approved as safe and effective. Both SMILE and LASIK are FDA (USA) and CE (Europe) approved.

As for which procedure is better, there’s currently no definitive answer; as no statistically significant research exists to prove one as superior to the other. However, a large, non-inferiority study in Singapore confirmed that the post-surgery results are the same for both surgeries.

At a glance, here’s a comparison of SMILE and LASIK surgeries:

Visual resultsExcellentExcellent
Flap-related complicationsNon-existentVery infrequent
Suitability for thinner corneasMoreLess
Time to complete healing7 daysMonths
Speed of visual recovery*24 to 48 hours24 to 48 hours
Eye irritation/painMinimalMinimal
*These are average recovery times. This time may vary according to the size of the correction and the individual’s healing response.

Dr Andrew Logan believes both SMILE and LASIK are excellent corrective procedures. However, in his opinion, SMILE is the best option for patients that are short-sighted and younger than 40.

The Top 10 Benefits Of SMILE Surgery?

So, you now know a bit more about the technical side of SMILE surgery, but what about the benefits? We’ve summarised our top 10 benefits of SMILE surgery below.

  1. The SMILE procedure is simpler and faster than LASIK surgery – usually completed within 3 minutes! This is because we only use one laser in the procedure.
  2. The procedure is quiet and there’s no burning smell. Which is sometimes noticed with LASIK surgery.
  3. Like LASIK, the post-surgery vision recovery for SMILE is very quick and pain-free! The surface of the eye is completely numb due to anaesthetic eye drops applied prior to surgery. Vision recovery is generally between 24-48 hours.
  4. After SMILE surgery, there’s no corneal flap, which means corneal flap complications are not a concern post-surgery.
  5. As mentioned above, SMILE surgery is ideal for people who enjoy playing contact sports! This is because there is no corneal flap.
  6. In comparison to LASIK, there’s better predictability of SMILE surgery, particularly for larger corrections.
  7. Similar to the above, there’s better stability of correction when compared with LASIK. This also applies to larger corrections.
  8. The nature of the surgery means there’s less damage to corneal nerves. Fewer corneal nerves need to be cut compared to LASIK. The benefit? The corneal sensation is better preserved.
  9. There aren’t as many dry eye issues in SMILE surgery.
  10. SMILE surgery preserves corneal strength and stability better.

So why doesn’t everywhere offer SMILE?

We sometimes get asked why SMILE isn’t offered in more clinics around New Zealand given how great it is. SMILE can only be done with the VisuMax femtosecond laser, as its precision and accuracy are necessary for making the small incision on the cornea. Other commonly used lasers in New Zealand, such as the Intralase don’t have the same ability. The VisuMax femtosecond laser comes at a high cost, so a lot of clinics may not choose to purchase it.

Although these are some great benefits, don’t be disheartened if SMILE surgery isn’t suited to your eyes. The other laser corrective surgeries are really effective and Dr Logan is a specialist in all three. The main goal of laser eye surgery is to correct your vision and all of the surgeries can do this.

Image of Eye Glasses Sitting On A Table

How much does SMILE laser eye surgery cost?

We want to keep things easy at Wellington Eye Centre. For all of our laser vision correction procedures, our fee is $3,380 per eye. Included in this fee is your medical assessment, as well as 12 months post-operative care within New Zealand.

If this cost is a bit of an obstacle for you, you could consider finance options. We have a standard offer of 12 months of interest-free finance with Q card and GEM Visa. Have a look at our handy surgery payback calculator to see how soon you can start saving money.

SMILE At Wellington Eye Centre

Like the sound of SMILE? Book a free laser suitability assessment at Wellington Eye Centre to see if it’s an option for your eyes. Our ophthalmic technicians will assess your eyes and provide a recommendation for the best type of laser eye surgery for you. We would love to meet you and your eyes!

Alternatively if you’re short on time you could take our quick suitability quiz first.

If you have any other questions about SMILE surgery, or another one of our refractive procedures, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team.

VisuMax® and SMILE® are registered trademarks of Carl Zeiss Meditec.

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