Purpose. To evaluate retrospectively the effect of spherical excimer laser photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) on astigmatism.
Methods. Four hundred seventy consecutive eyes of patients who had PRK for the treatment of myopia without astigmatic keratotomy, PRK reoperation, or other surgical procedures were evaluated in a retrospective clinical study. PRK was performed using the Summit Apex excimer laser with attempted corrections from 1 to 7 diopters (D) of myopia. Preoperative and postoperative astigmatism was determined by manifest refraction refined with a 0.25-D Jackson cross cylinder and evaluated with vector analysis.
Results. Eighty-five (18%) eyes continued to have a spherical refraction after PRK, 53 (11%) eyes had the same preoperative astigmatism, and 332 (71%) eyes had a change in magnitude of astigmatism ≥0.25 D after spherical PRK. The absolute change in astigmatism magnitude irrespective of axis was +0.4 ± 0.4 (standard deviation) D at 6 months after PRK. Eyes with change in astigmatism power tended to have higher preoperative myopia and higher preoperative astigmatism. Vector analysis revealed surgically induced astigmatism was 0.68 ± 0.50 D (range, 0–3.25 D) at 1 month and 0.56 ± 0.47 D (range, 0–3.1 D) at 12 months after spherical PRK.
Conclusion. Spherical excimer laser PRK is associated with significant surgically induced astigmatism that is likely related to decentration of the ablation, excimer laser beam irregularities, and variations in wound healing across the ablated zone. Surgically induced astigmatism will complicate attempts to correct astigmatism simultaneously at the time of PRK and suggest that such attempts are likely to be problematic for lower levels of astigmatism.