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New Test to Assess Pilot’s Vision Following Refractive Surgery

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Chisholm CM, Evans ADB, Harlow JA, Barbur JL.New test to assess pilot’s vision following refractive surgery.Aviat Space Environ Med 2003; 74:551–9.

Background: All forms of corneal refractive surgery can sometimes cause an increase in optical aberrations and scattered light, which can affect visual performance. The purpose of this study was to develop a suitable test that was sensitive to retinal image degradation in subjects who have undergone excimer laser refractive surgery and that was also relevant to visual demands in commercial aviation. Methods: Assessment of the visual environment and the tasks involved in piloting a commercial aircraft formed the basis for the selection of the test parameters. The new contrast acuity assessment (CAA) test covers a functional visual field of ±5° and is based on minimum spatial vision requirements for commercial pilots. Results: Data measured in 100 normal subjects were used to define the ‘standard normal observer’ and the range of variation for the parameters of the test. This approach makes it possible to quickly establish whether a given subject’s performance falls within the range of the standard normal observer. The test is also administered under low ambient illumination since flying at night involves mesopic levels of light adaptation when the pupil size is large and the effects of aberrations and scattered light are therefore more pronounced. Conclusion: The results of the test are simple to interpret and reveal visual performance that falls outside the normal range as a result of either significant degradation of retinal image quality (caused by increased aberrations and scattered light) or abnormal processing of visual information in the retina and/or the visual pathway.
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Keywords: LASIK; PRK; aviation; contrast acuity; functional vision; laser surgery

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2003

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