How Much Does Strabismus Surgery Cost?

Written by: Staff

There are two classifications of a lazy eye: one is “Amblyopia” and the other is “Strabismus,” a condition where the eyes aren’t aligned correctly.  This can either be due to a weak or too strong of a muscle, causing the eyes to point in different directions.

Lazy eye by National Eye Institute, on Flickr
Lazy eye” (CC BY 2.0) by National Eye Institute

How much strabismus surgery cost?

For patients who don’t have insurance, the costs can be less than $750 if the eye can be corrected with a simple eye exam, glasses and monitoring.  However, if vision therapy is required, the costs can be closer to the $2,000 to $3,000 range.

Surgery, which will be the most extreme option, can cost anywhere from as little as $7,000 to more than $20,000 without a health insurance plan.  This should include the doctor, hospital and any miscellaneous bills.  This will depend on the doctor, where it’s being performed, the geographical location and the complexity of the case.

Members on paid an average of $8,000 for their lazy eye surgical procedure, and for the most part, most found the procedure to be worth it.

Since the surgery will be considered a necessity, most health insurance companies will cover the surgery and you will be responsible for your co-pay and deductibles.

Strabismus surgery overview

If a patient is diagnosed with strabismus, the doctor will determine the best treatment option.  For younger children, a doctor will almost always recommend prescription glasses and vision therapy to help the problem, and surgery will always be the last resort.  Prompt treatment will be required for children to avoid amblyopia, a condition where vision doesn’t develop in one eye.  The same can be said for adults.

If vision therapy is required, this session will include a therapist and sometimes an optometrist.  During these sessions, they will use tools and certain activities to help train the eyes to function properly.  Considered to be controversial, some optometrists may recommend it, while others may not see it as a valuable treatment.

If the methods noted above don’t work, surgery will be the last resort.  During the surgery, the eye muscles will be either strengthened or weakened to help the affected muscles.  A surgeon, during the procedure, will either shorten a muscle to strengthen it or recess a muscle to weaken it.  Children will be given a general anesthetic while adults will be treated with a local anesthetic that numbs the eye.

During the actual surgical process, the surgeon will create a small incision in the clear membrane, known as the conjunctiva, that covers the white part of your eyes.  With access to your eyes, the surgeon will then either shorten or stretch the muscles to help realign the eye to a natural position.  To shorten the muscle, a section of a nearby tendon or muscle will be removed, and if the muscles need to be weakened, a process known as a resection, it will be stretched and reattached to a point farther back in the eye.

The average procedure, depending on the situation, can take 90 to 120 minutes.  Some patients only need one eye worked on, while others need both eyes repairs.  The same can be said about the muscles since some people need more than one muscle worked on.

This is an outpatient procedure and most of the time, the patient can go home that day.

What to expect after strabismus surgery

After the procedure is complete, the eyes will be somewhat sore and red.  Some patients even note seeing bright red blood spots in the surgical area.

Some patients will see broken blood vessels in the eyes, which can cause eye redness.  If this were to occur, it can take up to three weeks for it to fade away.

A sensation also might be felt, similar to having something in your eye.  This will usually subside within a few days.  Most are able to resume activities within a couple of days.

Younger children may need another procedure to maintain the best possible results.  Eyeglasses or special lenses may be needed to fine-tune the eyes.

What are the extra costs?

During the surgery, general anesthesia will be required and may be billed separately.  The average anesthesia bill can cost $700 to $1,100.

A follow-up visit will be needed to monitor the healing process of the surgery, and this will happen about two weeks after your procedure. Follow up visits can cost anywhere from $75 to $200.

Medication will be required to help numb the pain for the weeks following the procedure.

Vision therapy, if needed, can cost $150 to $250 per session.

The surgery isn’t always successful, and in some cases, vision loss can occur, leading to a new pair of prescription glasses.

Tips to know

There are two conditions that can cause a lazy eye:  Amblyopia and Strabismus.  Amblyopia is a developmental problem which has an eye-brain correlation.  With Amblyopia, the brain learns to ignore information from the “lazy eye,” causing a weak connection between the two.  Strabismus is a misalignment, causing the eyes to cross when the six muscles that surround the eye can’t focus and work together properly.  Since the eye muscles can’t align properly, the brain will receive a different image from each eye, causing confusion and possibly leading to ignoring one of the images.

AllAboutVision notes LASIK can’t correct a lazy eye; however, there are some exceptions.  If one eye were to have significantly more nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism than one eye, there’s a slight possibility the brain may begin to ignore this eye, leading to amblyopia.  If someone were to be in this situation, wearing lenses could be uncomfortable since the unequal magnification caused by the lens power can cause headaches;. the same can be said if contact lenses were unsuccessful as well.  LASIK, in this situation, could be a good option to fully correct the refractive errors.

Lazy eye treatment can show improvements at any age, according to some scientific research; however, it’s best to start as early as possible.

The strabismus surgery success rate is about 60 to 80 percent.

Lazy eye exercises

How can I save money?

Most cases can be cured while a child is still young, so it’s important to take action as soon as possible.  The most popular solutions, as mentioned above, will include wearing corrective glasses and an eye patch to help strengthen the weak eye.  This helps adjust the eye’s refraction and can help eliminate the cost of surgery.  The earlier you get started, the better it will be for your future.

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