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    Refractive Eye Surgery Gives Warfighters the Visual Edge

    Refractive Eye Surgery Gives Warfighters the Visual Edge

    Photo By Jerome Mapp | A surgical team with the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program at Womack Army...... read more read more



    Story by Jerome Mapp 

    Womack Army Medical Center

    WOMACK ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Fort Bragg, N.C. – On the fifth floor of this sprawling Medical Center is the Ophthalmology Clinic, where a team of doctors and nurses performs a type of surgery on warfighters to strengthen their visions and give them the edge in performing their missions.

    Called refractive eye surgery, the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program (WRESP) is a free service that is offered to active-duty Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard personnel, according to LTC David L. Greenburg, chief of Surgery, which includes the Ophthalmology Clinic. The program began at the Medical Center in 2000.

    “We are a referral center for service members from the central [North] Carolina marketplace and offer LASIK (Laser Assisted In-SITU Keratomileusis), PRK (Photorefractive Keratectomy), Implantable Collamer Lens, and clear lens exchange,” Greenburg said.

    LASIK is commonly referred to as laser eye surgery or laser vision correction, a type of refractive surgery for the correction of myopia (shortsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism (a refractive error in which the eye does not focus light evenly on the retina). PRK is a type of laser surgery that can improve vision. Implantable Collamer Lens is an intraocular lens (IOL) that can be implanted into the eye without removing the natural lens. IOL refers to a lens implanted in the eye as part of a treatment for cataracts or myopia. Clear lens exchange is a surgical procedure for vision correction that replaces the natural lens of the eye with an IOL lens.

    “The military recognizes refractive surgery as a tremendous benefit to the warfighter. When downrange, it is imperative that our service members see well so that they can perform their mission,” Greenburg said.
    ”Traditional options to treat refractive errors, such as glasses and contact lenses, can have significant limitations in a downrange environment. Corneal complications can negatively impact a service member’s readiness.”

    Greenburg said that patients who elect to undergo this surgery find a tremendous benefit to being less dependent on glasses and contact lenses. He said that refractive surgery at WAMC is a safe and effective method to eliminate or reduce the need for eyewear.

    At this time, only active-duty service members are eligible for the program if they meet the following criteria: approval by their commanding officer; no adverse personnel actions pending; at least six months remaining on active duty; had a eye exam within the past 12 months (Optometry); meet refractive requirements, which is determined during preoperative exam; and are able to meet all preoperative and postoperative appointments.
    During the screening process, the WRESP team will determine the medical candidacy for each applicant and assist with recommending an individualized surgical option to best meet the candidate’s needs.

    Greenburg said that once a potential patient is identified, the procedure for correcting the beneficiary’s vision is quick and typically only takes a few minutes.

    “Our patients often remark with shock at how quickly these life-changing surgeries can be performed,” he said, but cautioned that the evaluation process can take time.
    Service members interested in obtaining refractive surgery do not require a consult placed by their primary care or unit providers. Instead, they can initiate the process online at the WAMC Refractive Surgery website and electronically submit the packet. The clinic will contact the service member to coordinate the remaining administrative and clinical tasks Greenburg acknowledged that Refractive surgery is not a great fit for everyone. He said that the clinical evaluation process identifies service members who are deemed safe candidates for surgery and excuses those who do not screen well.

    “Some people may prefer to wear glasses or contacts to correct their refractive error. These technologies have worked wonderfully for many people for decades,” Greenburg said. “We do emphasize [however] that contact lenses should never be worn in a field environment and that proper hygiene is critical for safe contact lens wear. Inappropriate use of contact lenses is a common cause of corneal infections. Some of these infections have caused permanent loss of vision.”

    He said that the WRESP team was on track to treat more than 2,000 eyes in 2020 before COVID-19 precautions impacted their ability to perform elective appointments and surgeries.

    “We have developed processes to safely bring patients through the clinic, while still following spacing and cleaning guidelines,” Greenburg said.

    Prior to December 2020, the Ophthalmology and Refractive Surgery clinics were in separate locations within the Medical Center. Today, the Refractive Surgery suite is located with the Ophthalmology Clinic on the fifth floor of the hospital’s nursing tower at the Reilly Road entrance. Greenburg said that the new location offers sufficient space to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines, while still maintaining a robust clinic.

    He noted that successful eye surgery is based on visual acuity at a distance. The vast majority of patients have 20/20 vision or better without glasses.

    “Many of them consider the choice to undergo refractive surgery one of the best decisions of their lives in terms of improving their quality of life,” Greenburg said.

    The Refractive Surgery center at Fort Bragg was the first one placed into operation in the Army and has been the busiest center in the Army as well, according to the WRESP team.

    “The depth of experience among our technicians exceeds any laser center in the Army as well,” said the WRESP team. “The recent addition of the WaveLight excimer laser platform is state-of-the art technology and will offer our active-duty population the latest technology in reducing their dependence on spectacles.”

    To learn more about WRESP or to submit an application, click here to access the website:



    Date Taken: 02.04.2021
    Date Posted: 02.04.2021 17:11
    Story ID: 388393
    Location: FORT BRAGG, NC, US

    Web Views: 1,336
    Downloads: 2