Is it Worth it to Get ICRS?
When you’re considering any elective medical procedure, you need to know the risks, and weigh them against the benefits. The choice of whether or not to have an elective procedure is very personal, and every person will make their choice differently. Here, we’ll discuss the major risks and benefits of having intrastromal corneal ring segments (ICRS) placed.
Intrastromal corneal ring segments, also known by the brand name Intacs, are plastic crescent-shaped devices placed within the structure of the cornea. This changes the shape of the cornea, altering the way that it refracts light and potentially correcting problems with the vision. ICRS are most commonly used for people who have certain problems of the cornea, such as keratoconus or keratectasia, but they can also be used to correct myopia (nearsightedness). For more on what it’s like to have ICRS placed, please see Intrastromal Corneal Ring Segments (ICRS): the Procedure and Recovery.
Please note that this page is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for qualified, individualized medical advice. You should discuss your potential elective procedure with your own doctor(s), including your primary care physician and the provider who will perform your procedure if you decide to proceed.
Any treatment has risks, and it’s important to be aware of them so that you can weigh them against the benefits.
There is a chance of damage to the eye as the corneal ring segments are being placed. The tunnel may extend toward the visual field, potentially interfering with vision. It may also extend toward the edge of the cornea. The ring segments may migrate, and if they do so, may alter the shape of the cornea in such a way that they impair, rather than enhance, vision.
There is also a risk of other problems with the eye. If there’s damage to the nerves in and around the eye, you may experience a droopy eyelid, which may be permanent. There is a chance of bleeding or fluid collecting within the eye, which raises the eye pressure and may also potentially lead to blindness. The rise in eye pressure may require surgery, long-term medications, or both, and may damage the eye irreversibly. Because the eye is being cut, there is a risk of infection, which may require antibiotics and could also cause permanent damage to the eye. There is also a risk that abnormal blood vessels will grow in the cornea, which could interfere with vision.
Additionally, the ring segments may not produce a beneficial effect on your vision. Even if they do give you better visual acuity, there may be other effects on your vision. There may be starbursts or halos around lights, or “ghosting” of images (double vision). These visual effects may interfere with driving at night or other activities. These types of visual changes are less common with ICRS than with LASIK and other laser-based corneal surgery, but they do occur.
While refractive surgery to place ICRS does have risks, its benefits are also significant, and the majority of people who receive ICRS are satisfied with the outcome. ICRS can offer some people who must wear glasses or contacts freedom from the hassle of these devices. With glasses, people may be restricted from participating in certain types of activities, particularly sports; ICRS may allow them to do the things they love. Additionally, many find wearing glasses uncomfortable on the bridge of the nose or tops of the ears, and many also don’t like the look of glasses. Contacts are uncomfortable and easy to lose, and some people are unable to tolerate contacts due to certain features of their eyes, and for those with very strong prescriptions, contacts may not even be possible. For those with keratoconus, ICRS may be the best option to correct the vision, as contact lenses and glasses are not able to correct the excessive curvature of the cornea in this condition.
ICRS are also one of the few vision correction procedures that is reversible. If there are side effects, the ring segments migrate, the eyes change, or there is any other reason to remove them, the ICRS can be removed from the cornea, and it will usually resume its old shape, though this may take up to three months.
The cost for ICRS is around $2,000 to $2,500 per eye. This cost varies depending on several factors, including the region and the particular surgeon. You should check with the provider(s) you’re considering to determine the exact cost. Keep in mind that financing is often available. For more detail, visit our Intrastromal Corneal Ring Segments (ICRS) Cost page.