What Is the LASIK Flap: Recovery Time and Complications

May 20, 2022

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Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, or LASIK, is a common refractive surgery designed to improve vision. It does this by reshaping the front surface of the eye called the cornea. This serves to correct refractive errors, such as myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism.

What Is The LASIK Corneal Flap?

The cornea is made up of several layers, the outermost of which is the epithelium. Underneath it sits the stroma, the target tissue for reshaping. The flap is created from the epithelium and a bit of stroma in order to expose the deeper stroma, where laser treatment can be performed. After the procedure, the flap can be realigned over the stroma. The flap serves as a cover for the treated area, which helps to minimize disruption to the treated tissue and optimize healing after the procedure.

What Is The LASIK Corneal Flap?

How Is The Flap Made?

The flap is made by creating a circular incision on the surface of the cornea, leaving one little strip untouched. That untouched strip serves as the hinge for the flap. Once the flap is created it is lifted and temporarily moved over so that the underlying tissue is exposed. The laser treatment is then delivered to the deeper corneal layer. Once the reshaping is complete, the flap can be repositioned over the treated area and smoothed out to ensure that no bubbles or wrinkles are present. No stitches are necessary to adhere the flap to the underlying tissue; these tissues naturally adhere together.

Some clinics use a blade to cut the flap, while others employ a laser. Dr. Kraff uses the Intralase Femtosecond laser to create the flap, which results in a completely bladeless LASIK procedure. Using a laser allows for more accuracy and precision in the creation of the flap and allows for fewer mechanical errors than the blade.

LASIK Flap Recovery After the Procedure

Once the surgery is complete, the first question often becomes, “how long does LASIK flap take to heal?” The good news is that flap healing after LASIK begins almost immediately following surgery. The outer edges of the flap seal down in the epithelium within a day or so. Then, the deeper layers of the cornea continue to gradually anchor more tightly to the overlying flap. Full LASIK eye flap healing time usually takes a few weeks to a few months.

LASIK Flap Complications

While the healing of the flap generally goes uneventfully, there is always the risk that this could not go as planned.

Types of LASIK Flap Complications

There are various flap complications LASIK patients are at risk for during surgery when there are problems making the flap. This can result in incomplete, decentered, or buttonhole flaps.

Following surgery, flap complications include:

  • Dislocation – a movement of the flap from its intended place
  • Folds or wrinkles – flap is not smooth
  • Epithelial ingrowth – epithelial cells from the outer cornea migrate under the flap
  • Diffuse Lamellar Keratitis – inflammation under the flap
  • Irregular astigmatism – uneven corneal shape

These complications can result in blurry, distorted, or even sometimes double vision but luckily are exceedingly rare.

How To Tell If Your LASIK Flap Has Moved

When the flap moves out of place, it’s referred to as LASIK flap dislocation.  If you’re wondering how to tell if your LASIK flap has moved, rest assured that you’ll know. Symptoms include pain, discomfort, watering, and/or blurry vision. Many people worry about how to tell if a flap moves after LASIK, but things will feel distinctly different.

Flap Complications Treatment

If the flap has dislocated, it can usually be repositioned by the surgeon without further complication. Your doctor will discuss your particular situation and options for remedying the problem.

Flap Complications Prevention

It’s important to keep the eyes closed as much as possible for several hours immediately after surgery. This helps to prevent the disruption to the cornea that occurs with every blink. You will be given goggles to use during sleep, which will help to protect your eyes at night. These are worn for the first 5 nights following your treatment. Avoid contact sports for the period of time recommended by your doctor. It’s also very important not to rub the eyes in the weeks and months after LASIK. Always follow your pre-and post-operative instructions, including limitations and medications.


A flap is an incredible tool that helps to make LASIK effective and painless. The flap protects the underlying tissue during healing to ensure a quick and effective recovery. Although complications are possible, following your pre- and post-operative instructions is the best way to minimize the chance that they should occur. Remember, complications such as a dislodged flap after LASIK are exceedingly rare. Hundreds of thousands of people have LASIK every year in the United States, and for the overwhelming majority, everything goes flawlessly. If you’re ready to join them, contact the Kraff Eye Institute to book your no-cost, no-obligation, consultation today.

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Dr. Colman R. Kraff

Committed to advancing new technologies in the field of ophthalmology, Dr. Colman Kraff helped to pioneer laser vision correction. In February of 1991, as part of a five-site, U.S., FDA clinical trial team, Dr. Kraff successfully performed the first excimer laser procedures in the Chicagoland area using the VISX Excimer Laser.

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