Pain response and symptoms in photorefractive keratectomy: mechanical de-epithelization compared with transepithelial ablation

Sintomas e dor em ceratectomia fotorrefrativa: desepitelização mecânica comparada à transepitelial

Priscila Rymer Bernardo Kaplan Moscovici Rachel Gomes Braulio Couto Paulo Schor Mauro Campos About the authors



To compare postoperative pain and discomfort between mechanical and transepithelial photorefractive keratectomies.


This prospective comparative study included 190 eyes of 95 patients with hyperopia (up to +4.00 D), astigmatism (up to -5.00 D), and myopia (up to -8.00 D) who underwent mechanical photorefractive keratectomy in one eye and transepithelial photorefractive keratectomy in the contralateral eye using Wavelight Allegretto EX500 excimer laser. The patients were unaware of the side treated with each technique. The interval between operations in the same patient was 15-30 days. Both eyes had similar refraction before surgery, with a maximum of 15-µm difference in ablation. Postoperative questionnaires were administered on days 1 and 7 to assess the patients’ level of discomfort (0=no discomfort to 5=extreme discomfort) with the following symptoms: pain, burning sensation, itchiness, tearing, photophobia, eye redness, foreign body sensation, and eyelid swelling. Patients were also asked about which method they preferred.


The sample consisted of 61 women (64.21%) and 34 men (35.79%). The mean (SD) patient age was 31.66 (6.69) years (range, 22-54 years). On postoperative day 1, the patients reported significantly less discomfort in terms of pain (1.9 ± 1.74 vs 2.5 ± 1.83; p=0.017), burning sensation (1.8 ± 1.56 vs 2.5 ± 1.68; p=0.004), tearing (2.3 ± 1.71 vs 3.1 ± 1.69; p=0.001), and foreign body sensation (1.9 ± 1.77 vs 2.5 ± 1.86; p=0.024) in the eye that received mechanical photorefractive keratectomy than in the eye that received transepithelial photorefractive keratectomy. No significant differences were found between the mechanical and transepithelial photorefractive keratectomies on postoperative day 7. Fifty-nine patients (62.10%) preferred mechanical photorefractive keratectomy, while 32 (33.68%) preferred transepithelial photorefractive keratectomy. Four patients (4.22%) expressed no preference.


Our results showed that pain scores were significantly lower in the mechanical photorefractive keratectomy-treated eyes than in the transepithelial photorefractive keratectomy-treated eyes on postoperative day 1, which may have provided greater patient comfort after surgery and led patients to prefer the mechanical photorefractive keratectomy technique.

Pain, postoperative; Astigmatism; Myopia; Hyperopia; Photorefractive keratectomy; Laser, excimer/therapeutic use

Conselho Brasileiro de Oftalmologia Rua Casa do Ator, 1117 - cj.21, 04546-004 São Paulo SP Brazil, Tel: 55 11 - 3266-4000, Fax: 55 11- 3171-0953 - São Paulo - SP - Brazil