SMILE, LASIK or PRK/LASEK? Treatment comparison

Discover how laser eye surgeries compare

The following chart provides an overview of all key facts and figures when it comes to laser eye surgery. While all three laser vision correction options have high success rates, they differ slightly in the way refractive errors are treated, the treatment method used, and the clinical specifics of each method. An eye doctor can help you understand which option is best for your individual eye condition.

This table shows a range of treatment options used in refractive laser eye surgery and does not represent an overview of products of specific manufacturers.





Name of Medical Procedure

Small Incision Lenticule Extraction

Laser-Assisted in situ Keratomileusis

Photorefractive Keratectomy/ Laser Sub-Epithelial Keratomileusis


Minimally invasive laser eye surgery, extraction of lenticule

Flap surgery, folding away the top corneal layer and reshape tissue underneath

Surface ablation of corneal tissue


Keyhole solution, preserves structure of the front corneal tissue

High rate of experience, widely available

Option for thinner corneas or other cornea conditions

Potential complications   

Some special characteristics of patient’s physiology require changing to LASIK

Possible flap related complications

Longer visual recovery, less patient comfort during recovery





Currently in clinical trials





Access to the cornea

Femtosecond laser creates a thin lenticule inside the cornea and a small incision up to 4mm

Flap made by a femtosecond laser or a handheld device (microkeratome) with a circumferential incision of approximately 20mm

Removal of the epithelium (covering clear skin) by an alcohol solution (Temporary removal with LASEK)

Shaping the cornea

Surgeon removes the lenticule manually through the incision to change the shape of the cornea

Laser removes tissue by multiple-pulse photoablation to change the shape of the cornea

Laser removes tissue by multiple-pulse photoablation to change the shape of the cornea

Completing the procedure  

Procedure is completed after the lenticule is extracted
Flap placed back to its original position by the surgeon
  • PRK- Bandage contact lens inserted
  • LASEK- Epithelium placed back to its original position



Sleeping patch for the first few days after surgery

Sleeping patch for the first few days after surgery

Bandage contact lens is worn for about 4 days after surgery


Eye may feel a bit irritated for the first couple of days after surgery. Usually the eye recovers quickly after surgery. Vision can improve immediately but may also take a few days.

Vision may be blurred for some hours and there may be a burning sensation for the first day after surgery. Vision may take a few days to become stable.

Eye may feel a bit gritty and cause discomfort for one week after surgery. Visual recovery could take more than a month.

Activity restricitions 

Restrain for approx. 3 days from outdoor and strenuous activities

Refrain for approx. 1 month from outdoor and strenuous activities

Restrain for approx. 1 month from outdoor and strenuous activities

Technical Info

Lasers used  

Only a femtosecond laser

Femtosecond laser or microkeratome for flap creation; excimer laser for tissue ablation

Only an excimer laser for tissue ablation

SMILE, LASIK, and PRK/LASEK are all clinically-proven, safe and effective methods of laser eye surgery. The three types of laser vision correction, while differing in method, have approximately the same success rate. Which treatment option is best for you depends on a number of factors like the refractive error, your profession, and habits such as lifestyle and sports. Each type of laser eye surgery has its own benefits and disadvantages, which you can read more about on the respective pages for SMILE, LASIK and PRK/LASEK.

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