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Refractive Surgery Program

Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program

Welcome

Fort Stewart’s Laser Refractive Eye Surgery Center is located in the WRESP Clinic on the first floor at Winn Army Community Hospital; our telephone number is 912-767-2020.
Our Refractive Surgery Center performs PRK or LASIK on combat arms & non-combat arms soldiers. We accept soldiers from Forts Benning, Jackson, Gordon, McPherson and other services near or around Fort Stewart.
Soldiers are asked to plan ahead for their refractive surgery; we frequently decline surgery to otherwise ideal candidates because they do not have enough time to heal properly before upcoming deployments or field duty.

Eligibility

All active-duty & activated National Guard & Reserve soldiers (Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Marines) are eligible for refractive surgery under the WRESP program if they meet the following criteria:

  • Approval by Commanding Officer (rank of O-5 or above)
  • Army candidates must have at least 18 months remaining on active duty after surgery (or in conjunction with an executed reenlistment action)
  • Navy – 12 months Air Force – 6 months
  • No adverse personnel actions pending
  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Abe to meet all pre-operative and post-operative appointments
  • If you do not need glasses or contact lenses to drive a car, you are not a candidate for refractive eye surgery because your uncorrected vision is too good. Certain individuals are poor candidates for refractive surgery & will be advised so after the pre-operative evaluation. Family members and retirees currently are not eligible for laser eye surgery.

Download the Application for LASIK Surgery

Priorities

  • Category 1: Any combat arms soldier & any deploying soldier regardless of specialty.
  • Category 2: Non-combat arms soldiers who are not deploying are treated on a space-available basis.

Application for Surgery

  • A WRESP (form-letter) application packet can be picked up from the WRESP clinic or downloaded from the WACH web page.
  • Have your commander complete & sign the letter. If a unit Commander requires special considerations or have questions, they are encouraged to speak with the Chief of the Refractive Surgery Center regarding surgery scheduling, they can contact the clinic or leave a message.
  • Hand-carry the packet to the WRESP clinic on the first floor of Winn Army Community Hospital. At that time, you will be scheduled a pre-operative evaluation. Soldiers may even be evaluated that day, if appointments are available. Soldiers are afforded an opportunity to sit with a scheduling counselor and have their questions answered relative to eligibility and scheduling.
  • Contact lens wearers must stop wearing their soft contact lenses at least 2 weeks prior to the pre-operative evaluation. Soldiers that wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses must discontinue use for 3 weeks prior to the pre-operative evaluation.

Intro to Laser Eye Surgery, …

  • The surgery is performed by an ophthalmologist, a medical doctor with special training in diseases & surgery of the eye. Optometrists are specialists in the treatment of eye & vision disorders & actively manage the care of soldiers before & after laser surgery, but do not perform surgery.
  • After refractive surgery, a strict regimen of medications is prescribed, as is a physical profile, to optimize healing of & minimize injury to the healing eyes. A few days of quarters is recommended after surgery. PRK patients are given pain medications to minimize post-operative discomfort, however, rare patients experience significant pain for several days following surgery. LASIK usually causes pain for only one or two days. Driving vision often returns only a few days after either surgery.
  • By eliminating the need for corrective glasses, refractive surgery leaves the soldier vulnerable to projectile objects that could injure the naked eye. For this reason, use of protective eyewear is essential following refractive surgery & is provided by our clinic to those soldiers who have not received it from their unit.

LASIK, …

  • The most popular eye surgery to correct vision problems in the United States is Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis (LASIK). In LASIK, the doctor a laser (Intralase) to create a flap in the outermost layer of the cornea. The flap is folded back, allowing a computer-guided laser to reshape the underlying cornea. This reshaping is called photoablation. The flap is then repositioned over the ablated cornea. Most patients recover quickly from this procedure, often seeing well without glasses within a few days.

PRK, …

  • PRK stands for Photorefractive Keratectomy. PRK reshapes the surface of the cornea via photoablation just like LASIK, however, no flap is created. Instead, the surgeon removes the superficial layer of the cornea with a brush, then uses the laser to reshape the underlying cornea. A contact lens is then placed while the superficial epithelial cells grow back over the ablated cornea in 3-5 days. PRK has a longer recovery time but most patients are very functional within one week from surgery. Vision will continue to improve over the next few weeks.

… and Implantable Collamer Lens (ICL)

  • ICL surgery is the latest surgical option to come to Fort Stewart. By implanting a lens into the eye, between the iris and one’s natural lens, we can eliminate near-sightedness in many soldiers who may not be eligible for PRK or LASIK. Also, those eligible for PRK or LASIK may instead choose ICL surgery if their ophthalmologist feels ICLs are a safe option. Visual recovery is fast and pain is minimal after ICL surgery. One is non-deployable for only 30 days and we recommend 4 days of convalescent leave after ICL surgery. Currently, ICL surgery requires making one or two holes in the upper iris with a laser at least two weeks prior to implantation of the ICLs into the eyes which necessitates one or two more preoperative appointments than PRK or LASIK, but the visual outcome is often similar, if not better, than one achieves after PRK or LASIK.

The Pre-Laser Evaluation

Before refractive eye surgery, you must have:

  • A signed commander’s letter permitting you to have refractive eye surgery.
  • Patients are asked to bring or wear their eyeglasses (or prescriptions) that are at least one year old.
  • Pre-operative evaluation with complete dilated eye exam by our optometrist usually takes about 2 hours.
  • Attend a group briefing and/or individual counseling with an ophthalmologist that reviews your chart. This appointment generally lasts about 2.5 hours and usually scheduled in the afternoon. Additional or repeat tests may be performed to ensure safe surgery.

Surgery, Follow-Up, and Deployment

  • It is crucial for soldiers & authorizing commanders to be aware of the requirements surrounding refractive surgery in order to plan for training & deployment.
  • PRK or LASIK generally lasts 10-20 minutes per patient, but you may be in the clinic the entire morning or afternoon, depending on the number of soldiers being treated that day.
  • Post-op appointments one day, one week & one month after LASIK.
  • Post-op appointments one week, one month & three months after PRK.
  • After LASIK you get a 1 month non-deployable profile.
  • After PRK you get a 3-month non-deployable profile.
  • Profiles are given to optimize healing & minimize injury to the eyes after surgery. We expect units to adhere to the profile’s restrictions. For 30 days after surgery, soldiers should not live in tents, work in sunny, dusty or windy environments, do organized PT, swim, wear protective mask or face paint, fire weapons or drive military vehicles. Also, when in sunny or bright environs, soldiers should be allowed to wear sunglasses at all times for one year after surgery to minimize the risk of corneal scarring & hazy vision.
  • After PRK most soldiers require 90 days of follow-up prior to deployment, but occasionally soldiers may be released after 60 days if their treatment was low & healing looks good. The post-op appointments are necessary to ensure refractive stability & prevent deploying soldiers who are having rare complications. Again, most soldiers heal by the time the profile expires, but commanders must understand rare complications or slow healers exist; these outliers may require more frequent or longer follow-up.

Special Considerations Due to Travel

  • The processing of laser candidates not stationed at Fort Stewart is slightly different to reduce the number of times traveling to the center. Ideally, a coordinator should be assigned at each base to help facilitate candidacy and pre-operative appointments.
  • Applicants are pre-screened for eligibility at their local base (Referral Form) and follow-up care to be pre-established (Managed Care Agreement) as parts of their application. Local applicants do not need to complete these forms for care is done at Fort Stewart.
  • Group counseling and evaluations are granted on specific dates where maximum clinical attention can be provided to expedite a complete ophthalmologic examination and specialized testing can be done. A selection of surgical dates are presented to help the applicant with planning for their return (lodging, etc) if they are considered a go for surgery.
  • Individual notifications are made approximately one week following a detailed records review by the Ophthalmologist performing the laser surgery.
  • Applicants are brought back for the surgical brief, laser procedure, and next day post op. This requires the patient to stay overnight for two nights.

Special Soldiers

  • Any soldier regardless of MOS can get PRK, but LASIK is prohibited in Special Forces troops & anyone considering SCUBA or HALO school. LASIK is permitted in those considering Special Forces so long as the surgery is completed prior to entering Special Forces. Aviators can get a waiver to receive either PRK or LASIK. Navy, Air Force & Marines have policies that may differ slightly from the Army’s refractive surgery policies, so those members may want to contact their nearest same-service refractive surgery center to answer service-specific questions, but we certainly can evaluate and perform refractive surgery on all service members.

Resources

  • Additional information about refractive surgery is available directly from the clinic, including an information pamphlet & the surgical consent form, which details the various risks & benefits of both LASIK & PRK. There is ample opportunity to ask questions of the technician, optometrist & ophthalmologist during the evaluation process. The telephone number of Fort Stewarts’s Refractive Surgery Center is 912-767-2020.

Army Laser Surgery Program

  • The Army Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program (WRESP) has been implemented as a limited medical resource available to commanders for enhancement of soldier readiness. Laser refractive eye surgery has been a proven benefit for professional athletes as well as fire, police, and other professionals whose uncorrected visual acuity is a significant factor in their confidence and effectiveness.
  • Due to the nature of the different refractive surgery procedures, there may be important repercussions in Army school selections. Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) is approved for students in all Army schools except aviation. Laser Keratomileusis (LASIK) is approved in all Army schools except Special Forces, Diving, HALO and aviation. There are on-going studies involving students in Flight School, as well as experienced aviators, who have had either Lasik or PRK surgery.
  • Similar studies involving soldiers who have had Lasik are being conducted in Special Forces courses. If you are interested in participating in one of these studies you must contact the specific school. You may not meet the study criteria and thus be refused admission to the school you want. If you are interested in specific qualification, you should speak to the associated school before receiving any laser treatment.
Telephone
Contact Information
Phone: 912-767-2020
Hours: Mon - Fri: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m..
Location: 1061 Harmon Ave.
Fort  Stewart, GA 31314