Purpose: Computational analyses were performed to quantify and directly compare the biomechanical impact of flapless and flap-based procedures in a series of patients undergoing small incision lenticule extraction (SMILE) in one eye and flap-based femtosecond lenticule extraction in the other. Methods: Tomographic data from 10 eyes of 5 patients undergoing femtosecond laser refractive lenticule extraction for myopic astigmatism with or without a stromal flap (femtosecond lenticule extraction in one eye, SMILE in the contralateral eye) were used to generate computational models. Inverse finite element analyses were performed at physiologic intraocular pressure followed by forward analyses at elevated intraocular pressure to assess corneal displacement and stress under differential loading. Case-specific treatment settings were incorporated. Preoperative material constants were obtained through inverse finite element analyses, and the surgically induced change in fiber stiffness within each flap was determined by minimization of the error between the simulated and actual 6-month topographic outcomes. Results: Flap-based procedures produced a 49% (range: 2% to 87%) greater mean reduction in effective stromal collagen fiber stiffness within the flap region than contralateral SMILE cases. Lower stresses and deformations were observed within the residual stromal bed in SMILE cases than in flap-based cases. Stromal bed displacements and stresses were more affected by a loading increase in flap-based eyes than flapless eyes. Conclusions: Intrastromal flapless procedures had less impact on anterior stromal collagen mechanics and resulted in lower stromal bed displacements and stresses than flap-based procedures in contralateral eyes. However, biomechanical impact varied widely between individuals and this reinforces the need for individualized assessment of ectasia risk.
- corneal biomechanics
- refractive surgery