Mt. everest and Lasik –
An interesting episode showing advantages of lasik eye surgery.
A DAREDEVIL 29,000ft hike to the summit of Mount Everest by a group of climbers who had all undergone Lasik surgery indicates that the procedure is safe for those pursuing adventure in the most extreme conditions.
Six climbers who underwent Lasik embark on 29,000ft hike to the summit of Mt Everest to examine the effects of hypobaric hypoxia on the cornea.
The extraordinary climb was organised by ophthalmologists Geoff Tabin MD and Jason Dimming MD, who are also mountaineers. It is one of the few studies to look at the effects of hypobaric hypoxia on the cornea following Lasik and the only one examining the phenomenon at such altitude.
Climbers preparing to scale Everest must undergo a lengthy period of acclimatisation at altitude, which includes spending at least one month at base camp altitude of 17,600ft, as well as repeated visits to higher camps at 20,000ft and above.
After acclimatisation, an attempt at the summit typically involves one night each at 20,000ft, 21,300ft, 24,000ft and 26,400ft, before the final push to 29,028ft.
The mountaineering ophthalmologists monitored the visual acuity of 12 eyes of six climbers in the expedition. They obtained refractions at sea level before and after the climb and at the 17,600ft base camp before and after the climbers attempted the summit.
They measured intraocular pressures at base camp using a portable tonometer and tracked the climbers’ subjective visual experiences at higher altitudes.
“Such extended time at and above 17,600ft provided an excellent model to study the effects of hypobaric hypoxia on the cornea after Lasik,” noted Dr Tabin, who in 1988 became the first ophthalmologist to reach the top of Everest.
All the climbers in the expedition reached 26,000ft, with four who had bilateral Lasik reaching the summit. All used supplemental oxygen above 26,400ft.
Five of the six climbers reported no subjective visual changes at up 26,400ft. One team member reported some blurring of vision above 16,000ft and two climbers reported similar problems above 27,000ft.
Three of the four who reached the summit reported no visual changes at the peak. One climber who reached the top reported some transient blurring. In each case the blurring improved with the subsequent descent and the use of lubricating drops.
One climber who reached the summit reported a milky haze above 28,500ft but this disappeared on descent. He noted that the haziness was not accompanied by any myopic shift, an effect reported by a climber who climbed Aconcagua in Argentina after undergoing Lasik.
Another climber turned around at 27,500ft when he developed a similar problem. He described his blurred vision as “like looking through waxed paper”. His vision returned to normal with 36 hours after descending to a lower altitude. All of the eyes returned to pre-climb visual acuity when the climbers returned to base camp.
One adventurer, who had attempted Everest previously while wearing glasses, experienced decreased visual acuity (to 20/30) at the summit. He noted: “All in all, the advantage of not having glasses on Everest far outweighed any loss of visual acuity I had on the mountain.”
“Having Lasik was the best training for Everest I’ve ever done. The view from the top was the best I’ve ever had,” said another climber, Peter Athans MD, who reached the summit without difficulty. He had previously climbed to the summit of Everest six times, the most ascents by any non Sherpa climber, while wearing contact lenses.
Dr Tabin suspects that the problems encountered by climbers who experienced difficulties were surface-related. Those who climbed to 27,000ft and above in particular may have experienced corneal oedema or corneal surface changes associated with dry eye induced by oxygen flow from the facemask. Even at the lower altitudes, he believes dry eye may have been associated with the visual changes.
“Dry eye may be biggest concern with Lasik in extreme conditions. Climbing at altitude is very dry and there can be a lot of wind. Any climber who has undergone Lasik needs to be evaluated for dry eye and to be maximally treated prior to going. They should also be advised to bring appropriate drops on the expedition,” Dr Tabin told EuroTimes.
The amount of time elapsed after surgery did not appear to predict complications. The climbers had undergone Lasik anywhere from six weeks to three years prior to the expedition.
One of the climbers who had minor problems at the highest altitudes had undergone Lasik only three months prior to the hike, while the other underwent surgery three years previously. Similarly, two climbers who reached the summit without encountering any problems underwent surgeries at six weeks and three months earlier respectively.
The above article is an excerpt from the Eurotimes.
This shows safety of lasik eye surgery at high altitudes and low oxygen levels. Imagine, doing this tough climb with contact lenses or glasses. What if the glasses were to fog up, constantly? or if they fell off. Or if the climber had been wearing contact lenses. There could be a situation where the contact lenses froze or fell off. If you want to be at the top of a hill consider lasik vision correction with a top notch lasik eye surgeon
by Rajesh Khanna, MD
Beverly Hills Lasik Eye Expert
Los Angeles County