“Oops”—it is a short, one-syllable word that most of us use on occasion—but never by surgeons.
Eye surgery is scary for most patients. Therefore, they hang on every word you say and have responses far different from your contact lens or glaucoma patients.
I first became aware of the importance of words in refractive surgery from John W. Potter, OD. Dr. Potter describes the goal of laser vision correction (LASIK) as “20/happy.”
While it may sound corny at first, it is a phrase I have used for over 20 years with laser vision correction patients I have counseled.
Today, with escalating expectations, the phrase “20/happy” may be more valuable than ever.
This phrase can flush out the patient with unrealistic expectations. Occasionally, a patient will say, “No, I want my vision perfect.”
My next move is to ask, “What do you mean by perfect?” If the patient does not have a satisfactory answer for that question, then I would say, “Surgery is never perfect and maybe this elective procedure is not for you.”
Either way we both have learned something and are closer to setting realistic expectations.
Several phrases we use as clinicians warrant a funny look from patients.
Let me start with “comanagement.” Eyecare professionals know what that word means, but most patients haven’t a clue. To tell a patient “I comanage with Dr. Gordon,” means nothing to a patient. I prefer, “Dr. Gordon is a surgeon I work closely with, and he did my mom’s LASIK.”
I let patients know I provide the care before and after surgery (not pre-op and postop), and answer any questions they have about the procedure. I think it humanizes that conversation.
Whether the surgeon uses a microkeratome blade or a femtosecond laser, the creation of the LASIK flap is a dissection of the anterior cornea and then the excimer laser vaporizes corneal tissue.
I prefer to use the book analogy when discussing this with patients: I tell them to think of their cornea as a 540-page book. The surgeon opens the book to page 110 and lasers away 60 pages, leaving 370 pages in the book.
The FDA says we need to leave at least 250 pages in the book, so we are safely above that limit.
The book analogy is quick and easy to adapt to individual patients. They typically nod their heads in agreement as opposed to furrowing their brows if you say a blade is going across their corneas to dissect a flap.