• 193 nm excimer laser ablation;
  • hydrogel;
  • water content


Background: Water content of the corneal stroma may influence excimer laser ablation and may therefore affect residual refractive error following laser in situ keratomileusis. This study reports associations between water content of hydrogel materials and laser ablation depth.

Methods: Hydrated (n = 4) and dehydrated (n = 4) hydrogel buttons of 38%, 45%, 55% and 69% water content were ablated with the Nidek EC-5000 ArF 193 nm excimer laser, set to deliver a -6.00 DS curvature. Central curvature, optical quality and water content were measured before and after ablation. Hydrated buttons were rehydrated postablation and prior to measurement, to eliminate the effect of water removal during the procedure. The ablation depth per pulse was calculated.

Results: The average ablation rate for fully hydrated buttons was 0.51 ± 0.17 µm. The ablation rate for hydrated mat­erials (dry component ablation) reduced with increasing water content (P < 0.001). Dry hydrogel materials (0% water content) had an average ablation rate of 0.23 ± 0.06 µm per pulse.

Conclusions: For a constant laser energy output, lower water content materials ablated to a greater extent than higher water content materials. This model provides a simple way to assess the effect of water content and dehydration on myopic laser in situ keratomileusis.