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Airforce and PRK

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Nov 26, 2001
Does anyone know what the requirments are for PRK and UPT in the AF? Like what is the max dopplers you can have to qualify for the surgery? -2.00? -3.00? Specifically if any one knows a link to an AF website or better yet where I could find the reg on this that would be great!

Also does anyone know for sure if the AF has to do the surgery or can a civilian do it and then you join up.



Here's an article I pulled off the AF website for you regarding PRK. There's more info at


In the upper left corner you'll see a search link. Click and type PRK for more info. I really hope this helps. Good Luck!


A Flag Waving, Pledge Saying, God Blessing AMERICAN!_____________________________________

Updated eye surgery medical waiver policy released
Released: 26 Apr 2000


by Tech. Sgt. Richard B. Searles
Office of the Surgeon General

BOLLING AIR FORCE BASE, D.C. (AFPN) -- Air Force Medical Service officials recently released the Air Force's updated accession medical waiver policy for individuals with a history of corneal refractive surgery.

Changes to the policy include the addition of Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis, commonly referred to as LASIK, to the list of corneal refractive surgeries that can be considered for medical waiver during accession. The only other surgery included in the policy is photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK. PRK was previously the only waivable corneal refractive surgery.

Waivers are still not being considered for individuals who have had radial keratotomy or any other corneal refractive surgery.

According to Air Force medical officials, a separate waiver policy for aviation and special duty personnel who have had the PRK procedure will be published in the near future. When published, PRK waivers for aviation and special duty personnel will be limited. Currently, waivers for LASIK are not allowed for aviation and special duty personnel.

Active duty members who obtained PRK or LASIK are not required to meet a medical evaluation board, provided they meet vision standards as defined in AFI 48-123, Medical Examination and Standards. Also, the individual must not have any vision symptoms that would significantly restrict activity.

Individuals who have had PRK or LASIK may be considered for enlistment, commissioning and appointment waiver, if they meet the criteria outlined in the policy.

* Pre-operative refractive error does not exceed +/-8.00 diopters (spherical equivalent) in either eye.
* Post-procedure best spectacle corrected visual acuity is 20/20 in each eye that had the procedure. (Note: this is more stringent than accession standards for those who have not had corneal refractive surgery, due to the somewhat higher risk PRK and LASIK poses to vision)
* At least 12 months have passed since the date of the last surgery or most recent enhancement procedure.
* No significant side effects secondary to the surgery affect daily activities. * Stable post-op refraction defined as two refractions has been performed six months apart with no more than 0.50 diopter change in the spherical equivalent of either eye.
* Ophthalmologic exam reveals no lattice degeneration, retinal detachment or other ocular pathology associated with myopia or hyperopia.

Required documentation:
* Documentation of all the above information from the surgeon performing the procedure.
* Current comprehensive eye examination performed by an ophthalmologist or optometrist. This evaluation must address each of the waiver criteria.
* Copies of all medical records including the pre-operative eye examination (noting refractive error and keratometry readings), all operative reports (or procedure notes), and all follow-up notes. These should be included in the health records.

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Important to note that the policy above is for ALL Air Force members, but flyers are excluded. Currently, I'm pretty sure that pilots can not have the surgery, and if you have had the surgery, you will not be allowed to fly. Apparently one of the types of surgery is difficult to detect, but if you were to lie about it, and get caught, you'd be out.

I was approached to take part in a test program they are starting to ALLOW flyers to have the surgery, but as I was about to retire from the service and unsure of the airlines' view of the issue, I chose not to risk it. My vision is about 20/70 distant and 20/20 near, and apparently I was a reasonable candidate. The Navy and the Army have similar test programs for flyers, but I don't know that any of the services have actually opened up the program for general use.

As far as I know, the AF current policy for entry into pilot training is 20/20, uncorrected. If you are a student at the AF Academy, or already in the AF, you are eligible for a waiver to the policy, but those are the only waivers I'm aware of that have a good chance. Once you're AT pilot training, the 20/20 requirement is gone. We had guys get glasses the second day of UPT, and I got mine half way through. Not sure what the Navy's policy is. I suspect we're still a year or two away from letting pilots or pilot candidates get the surgery. It took ages for even contact lenses to be approved :(

One thing that IS pretty much undetectable is ortho-keratology (?) where over a period of months your corneas are "reshaped" by hard contact lenses. Kind of expensive, I think, and maybe somewhat uncomfortable, but, in contrast with what I said earlier, if I had this done successfully, and my eyes were now functioning "uncorrected" at a 20/20 level without surgery, I wouldn't have any problem with "concealing" the fact that I had had it done.
PRK is approved for flyers

A fellow WSO recently had to have the PRK surgery in order to apply for a UPT slot. Once the surgery was completed and the flight doc signed the waiver she was given her pilot slot. So it is approved and can be used for those apply for UPT.

Current Air Force vision standards are 20/70 correctable to 20/20 for entry to UPT. Civilian or prior service. That is distance vision...Navy is 20/30 Corr 20/20.

pilots can have surgery

I don't have any official regs or guidance to quote but I am a pilot and I have asked the doc about this. He said it is open to pilots. You still have to meet the requirements and you must go to Brooks to have it done.

Never have to wear glasses/contacts again (until you get old and need reading glasses/bifocals).

DNIF for several months

Possible minuses:
Less than a 1% chance that you will have complications and NEVER fly again in the military (for example halos)

I decided that wearing contacts isn't that bad and I decided not to try for the surgery.

OrthoKeratology is something I know a LOT about. If anyone is thinking about using this to get by a USAF physical, think twice, maybe even 5 or 6 times! Take it from someone who knows and has learned the hard way. Stick to the regs, and what they will or won't let you do.....you'll be happier in the end.

Is there any way someone can take the physical, knowing they won't pass the eyesight part? I wouldn't want to get PRK done and then fail because of something else.

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