As LASIK surgery becomes a more popular way for correcting vision, the demand for the service in South Georgia has increased. Dr. Scott Petermann, an ophthalmologist with The Eye Center at Affinity is meeting that demand. The Eye Center is now the only practice south of Macon that has a fixed, state-of-the art VISX S4IR laser for LASIK vision correction instead of a mobile unit. Previously, the laser used in the procedure was not available on a full-time basis - leaving little flexibility in scheduling; however, Petermann can now perform procedures more frequently, which makes scheduling more convenient for the patient. As an added convenience, patients can choose to have all of their pre-operation and post-operation visits in Valdosta or Tifton while having their actual surgery in Valdosta.
"Having a dedicated laser for our own use has been very well-received," Petermann said. "It's exactly the same laser that is used in larger cities and now we have it in South Georgia."
Petermann, who trained at Emory University and is board-certified, was among the first eye care professionals to perform LASIK in South Georgia. LASIK is an option for patients who suffer nearsightedness, farsightedness and those suffering from other stigmatisms. Success will result in a decreased dependence on glasses and contact lenses.
"It's certainly been popular for many years, especially in larger communities," said Petermann. "We have been providing patients the same service and expertise available only in larger cities; we also provide more convenient scheduling."
In LASIK surgery, a flap is created on the cornea and the laser is used underneath the flap to correct vision. Dr. Petermann uses Iris Registration and CustomVue technologies to maximize patient outcomes. CustomVue provides detailed information about the optics of the eye while Iris Registration allows for precise alignments for treatment. Used together, patients achieve better results.
"It's the best thing since white rice," said Norman "Red" Hill, the long-time coach of the ABAC tennis team in Tifton who wore trifocals for 30 years before having LASIK surgery. "I just can't say enough about Dr. Petermann and his staff and the job they did. The whole procedure took about 30 minutes. I was back at home the same day and the next morning, I got into my car and looked at my dashboard and it was the first time I'd really ever seen it."
While Hill's success mirrors that of many patients around South Georgia, convenience is now the key since Petermann added the fixed sight laser.
"Previously, our biggest problem was that we only had the laser available at certain times," Petermann said. "Now, LASIK or refractive surgery can be done any day of the week and we can try to accommodate the patient's schedule."
Beth Odom wore contacts for 30 years before having her LASIK surgery. She had been considering the procedure but had some reservations; she called someone who had already had the LASIK surgery with Petermann for more information. She said the procedure could not have gone smoother.
"I can see just as well and maybe better than I could wearing contacts," she said. "It's just a nice feeling to not have to put the contacts in and take them out every day. Now I can just get up and go. The thing that surprised me the most was how quick it was. It only took about 30 minutes. And I thought I might be out of work for a couple of days, but I had it done one afternoon and I was at work the next morning."
"I can definitely recommend Dr. Petermann," she added. "His staff was great and everything just went really well. I'm very satisfied."
Another advantage of Dr. Petermann having a permanent laser is that it provides the ability to treat residual glasses problems following cataract and other eye surgeries. As cataract patients have gotten younger, the expectations for "eyeglass independence" have increased. Laser vision surgery following cataract surgery can help meet these expectations.
Petermann said not everyone is a candidate for refractive surgery but anyone who is interested and thinks LASIK surgery may be an option can be screened at no charge.
"The procedure is very popular because it's considered safe and the outcomes are satisfying," he said. "And there's a quick recovery time. People want someone who is experienced and has had a proven success rate and we've had that. I think the more we do, the more popular it will be because it's been so successful."