Lt. Col. Scott Barnes, M.D. Does ‘About Face’ on LASIK


In response to widespread reports of problems with LASIK eye surgery, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) called a Special Hearing of the Ophthalmic Devices Panel on April 25, 2008 to address post-LASIK issues such as poor visual outcomes, debilitating post-LASIK dry eye, loss of quality of life, depression, suicidal thoughts, and a number of LASIK-related suicides.

Thirty-one presentations were given during the open public hearing, many from patients suffering from long-term complications of LASIK. Among the proponents of LASIK was Lt. Col. Scott Barnes, MD, an Army eye surgeon who made an impassioned plea on behalf of soldiers at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, “Please don’t take [LASIK] away from us.”

While Dr. Barnes spoke about “refractive surgery”, his testimony in the context of a special hearing on LASIK implied that his arguments were in support of the LASIK procedure.

Indeed, the Summary Minutes of the FDA hearing state that, “Dr. Barnes of the Warfighter Refractive Eye Surgery Program emphasized the importance of LASIK to the military.”

The FDA hearing testimony of Lt. Col. Scott Barnes is inconsistent with his recent publications. William Trattler, MD and Scott Barnes, MD published an article in the July, 2008 issue of Current Opinion in Ophthalmology,1 which states:

“At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the Army surgeons have moved to 100% surface ablation in the past 2 years; the five known traumatic flap dislocations (out of 2500 procedures) due to ‘typical’ soldier activities contributed to this change but not as much as an analysis of the visual outcomes. A review of the 28,000 procedures has shown that soldiers with PRK or LASEK have a 20% greater chance of achieving an uncorrected visual acuity of 20/15 or better than soldiers with a similar level of refractive error undergoing LASIK.”

Since manuscripts typically require months in preparation and the editorial process before they appear in print, we can assume that Lt. Col. Scott Barnes was already aware of serious problems with LASIK eye surgery when he testified at the April 25th special hearing. Why, then, did Barnes fail to raise concerns about safety and efficacy of LASIK at the April 25th hearing? Did Army eye surgeon Scott Barnes intentionally mislead the FDA and the public during his testimony to the FDA?

Watch video of Lt. Col. Scott Barnes testifying before the FDA panel on April 25, 2008.


1. Trattler WB, Barnes SD. Current trends in advanced surface ablation. Curr Opin Ophthalmol.
2008 Jul;19(4):330-4.