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Phototherapeutic Keratectomy

What is PTK?

PTK (Phototherapeutic Keratectomy) is a surgical procedure used to manage various cornea conditions, diseases, irregularities, and opacities.

PTK is an alternative use of the excimer laser that has the goal of making a patient’s cornea clearer and smoother to achieve better vision and/or comfort, depending on their underlying eye condition.

A partial list of eye conditions treated by PTK includes:

  • Corneal opacities

  • Scarring on the cornea

  • Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome

  • Irregular surfaces

  • Anterior Basement Membrane Dystrophy/Epithelial Basement Membrane Dystrophy

Want more information about the cornea?

For additional educational insight, visit the American Academy of Opthalmology.

Procedure Workflow

Day of Surgery

Preparation for your surgery starts the day before - you will begin using your prescribed drops to moisturize and protect your eyes pre-operatively.  You may eat normally, and please make sure to get a good night’s sleep so you will feel relaxed and comfortable for your procedure.

Arrive a few minutes early to your appointment, wear comfortable clothing, and have no eye makeup or moisturizers on your face. Upon arrival, our professional and compassionate staff will once again walk you through the steps of your procedure, post-operative care and answer any other questions you may have.


More drops will be used at that time to protect and prepare your eyes, and a light sedative will be administered for your comfort.  You will be escorted to our soothing Zen Suite, where you will be allowed to rest and relax until you and the surgeon are ready to proceed.

The Zen Suite

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PTK Procedure

The PTK procedure takes only about ten minutes. Once in the reclined position and drops have been administered to numb and prepare the eye, the technique can be broken into three steps:

  1. The surgeon will apply and control the excimer laser, which has been pre-programmed to recognize and treat each specific cornea. Using advanced, state-of-the-art technology, the excimer will emit beams of light that will reshape the corneal surface.

  2. The surgeon then administers anti-inflammatory and anti-biotic drops to the eye.

  3. Steps will be taken to enhance healing. These may consist of one or more of the following:

  • Placement of a bandage contact lens

  • Application of amniotic membrane

  • Application of specific medications

  • Patching the eye closed

Moments later, you are up and ready to go home to rest and recuperate.

There will likely be some discomfort after the numbing drops wear off, but this is usually manageable with preservative-free lubricating eye drops and over-the-counter pain relievers. 

Most patients report improvement in comfort over the first week while the doctor is monitoring the healing process. Your surgeon may suggest that you take a few days off from work and refrain from strenuous activity for up to one week to aid in the healing process.  Optimal results can be expected after several weeks.

Post-Op Routine Care

Immediately after your procedure, your surgeon will examine your eyes and review the post-operative instructions with you and your driver. You will have an eye shield to protect your eye overnight.

Over the next few weeks, you will use prescription eye drops on a specified schedule to protect your eyes from infection and promote healing.  The instructions will be explained to you, and you are always welcome to call our office or your LASIK coordinator if you have any questions.


Q: Can I drive after surgery?

A: Not the day of surgery, but you may drive the following day depending on the vision in your non-operated eye.

Q: Can I shower or take a bath?

A: We recommend that you wait until the next morning to shower or bathe and avoid getting soap or water directly in your eyes or on your patch for 7 days.

Q: When can I go back to work?

A: You can resume most normal activities the day after PTK, but if your job requires using a computer, take frequent screen breaks and lubricate your eyes often. Also, avoid dust, smoke, and yard work for approximately two weeks.

Q: How long before I can exercise?

A: You may resume exercise as early as 2 days after your surgery, but avoid public gyms for 5 days, and avoid water sports for 14 days.

Follow-Up Care

It is essential to protect and care for your eyes properly. During the first year following your procedure, you will see your primary eye doctor or us several times to make sure everything is healing properly. Specific instructions regarding these appointments will be given to you at the time of your surgery.

It is important to attend these visits and your annual eye exam to keep your part of the Vision Assurance Plan for good eye health. Our goal and expectation are that you will never need to see us for any adjustments after your initial procedure, but if that is ever the case, we need to know that you have done everything possible to take care of your eyes going forward.

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