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News | Sept. 21, 2023

Naval Hospital Jacksonville offers SMILE eye surgery for military

By Julie Lucas, Public Affairs Officer, Naval Hospital Jacksonville

This week Naval Hospital (NH) Jacksonville began performing a new type of corrective eye surgery. Small Incision Lenticule Extraction (SMILE) was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2016. The procedure involves using a femtosecond laser to create a small corneal lenticule which is extracted whole through a small incision. Alternatively, Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK) surgery would cut a large flap, possibly resulting in SMILE having less complications.

“First, SMILE has similar visual outcomes as Lasik while providing better corneal stability and also decreasing the risk of post-operative dry eye symptoms,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ruston Hess, Ophthalmology Department head.

Good candidates for the surgery are those with refractive error between -1.00 to -10.00 Diopters of near-sightedness, up to 3D of astigmatism, have no corneal diseases or medical diagnosis contraindicating SMILE, older than 21 years of age, and a stable eyeglass prescription during the previous year.

NH Jacksonville elected to start offering the surgery around a year ago. Training involves intensive online learning modules followed by 1-2 days of wet lab training with the VisuMax® laser. Certification for SMILE is then attained once 50 LASIK flaps have been created with the laser allowing progression to SMILE treatments.

“We will continue to offer other refractive surgeries PRK and LASIK as well as the SMILE surgery,” Hess said.

For those who elect SMILE or LASIK, they will be nondeployable for one month. During that month, patients should not work in dusty areas, do organized physical training, swim, rub their eyes, or play contact sports. Additionally, service members are authorized to wear sunglasses at all times for 90 days, to minimize the risk of anything hitting the eye, and help diminish sensitivity to light.

For more information about the surgery or to see if you are a good candidate, contact the Ophthalmology clinic by calling (904) 542-7681.

Naval Hospital Jacksonville and Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Jacksonville deliver health care and readiness. NH Jacksonville and its five branch health clinics serve 175,000 active duty, active duty family members, and retired service members, including 54,000 patients enrolled with a primary care manager. NMRTC Jacksonville and its five units support warfighters' medical readiness to deploy and clinicians' readiness to save lives. To learn more, visit:
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