The first Zeiss ReLEx SMILE procedures for US Navy personnel were performed by Cmdr. John B. Cason, MD, Program Director, Navy Refractive Surgery Center San Diego. These procedures for the US Navy follow the first procedures for the Department of Defense at Fort Belvoir Hospital in March 2017 by Army Colonel Bruce Rivers, MD, Director of the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program and Research Center.
Commander Cason for the US Navy, in conjunction with Colonel Rivers for the US Army, and Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Caldwell, MD, for the US Air Force, will be conducting an extensive performance-based study of the SMILE procedure for active duty members who work in visually demanding situations and harsh environments.
The Refractive Surgery Center at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, which is currently headed by Dr. Cason, has been at the forefront of refractive surgery research for over 24 years, rigorously evaluating new technologies and diligently analyzing outcomes. As the first military medical center to adopt PRK and LASIK vision correction, the Naval Medical Center San Diego has conducted hundreds of sentinel clinical studies on refractive surgery which have resulted in a robust DoD-wide program that provides the procedures to active duty personnel. Over 40,000 laser vision correction procedures are performed annually within the DoD, with over 250,000 service members having received treatment, according to a Zeiss news release.
The Tri-Service study, part of the DoD refractive surgery program, represents a collaborative effort of all three military services, sharing resources and research efforts, to evaluate visual and job-specific task performance after the SMILE procedure.
“The Naval Medical Center San Diego continues to be at the vanguard of rigorously evaluating and then offering the best technology to our service men and women who are called to go into harm’s way,” Steven C. Schallhorn, MD, founder of the U.S. Department of Defense refractive surgery program and Chief Medical Officer for Global Ophthalmic Devices at Carl Zeiss Meditec, said in a company news release. “The advantages of SMILE are uniquely suited for military medicine. As a minimally-invasive procedure, I believe that SMILE can not only improve the lives of those who serve by reducing dependence on eyeglasses and/or contact lenses, but can also provide them the vision they so critically need to perform in challenging situations and extreme conditions.”
“The collaboration between the DoD and Zeiss marks a new milestone for SMILE, the latest advancement in laser vision correction. Overcoming dependence on eyeglasses or contacts can enhance quality of life, but it is also critical to the safety and performance of active duty personnel,” Jim Mazzo, Global President Ophthalmic Devices at Carl Zeiss Meditec, said in the news release. “We are proud ReLEx SMILE from Zeiss can meet the rigorous standards of our U.S. military surgeons and the unique demands of their patients.”
ReLEx SMILE was recently approved by the FDA and is only available on the VisuMax femtosecond laser. In the SMILE procedure, surgeons correct patients’ myopia using the VisuMax femtosecond laser to create a precise disc-shaped lenticule within the cornea, which is then removed by the surgeon through a small incision, also created by the laser.
Over 750,000 SMILE procedures have been performed internationally since its introduction in 2011 with over 1000 surgeons regularly performing the procedure.