Initial incision with hand-held blade is now done by lasers, improving accuracy Safer eye surgery can now be obtained through the latest technology - though it comes at a price. The new procedure uses only laser, rendering obsolete the previous practice of making initial incisions with a hand-held blade. Experts said the new method removes many of the risks associated with eye surgery, but costs 'a few thousand dollars more', about $20,000. The procedure, called IntraLase-Assisted LASIK, was introduced last month at the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, and the Adventist Hospital. Previously, LASIK (laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis) involved the use of a hand-held, oscillating metal blade known as a microkeratome in the crucial first step of forming a corneal flap. Lasers were then used to work on the cornea. In the new procedure, a computer-guided laser is used to create the corneal flap, at what is claimed to be 100 times greater accuracy than a blade. Ophthalmologist John Chang So-min, of the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital, said the use of a blade during eye surgery caused great stress among both patients and doctors due to sight-threatening complications that occurred in one in about 1,000 cases. About 100 patients have received successful IntraLase surgery since they were introduced at the two local hospitals. Dr Chang said medical research in the US showed the procedure could achieve a 98 per cent success rate in restoring 20/20 vision, compared with 84 per cent using the other method. The new procedure takes a little longer to complete, which accounts for the higher cost. The technology has been used in the US for about a year and is available in only a few Asian countries, including Japan, Singapore and South Korea. The two hospitals are hoping to attract patients from Taiwan and the mainland, as well as other countries in the region. Walton Li Wai-tat, of the Private Hospitals' Association, said the Hospital Authority's financial difficulties had handed the private sector a golden opportunity.