LASIK eye surgery is a popular, minimally invasive surgical method for correcting a range of vision problems in people of all ages. It allows patients to see without glasses, sometimes for the first time in years even decades.
The beginnings of refractive eye surgery
LASIK and laser eye surgery originated from Poland. In 1948, Polish ophthalmologist Father Waclaw Szuniewicz pioneered refractive cornea surgery, which involves changing the curvature of the cornea to adjust the direction of light entering the eye, eliminating the need for eyeglasses.
That same year, Szuniewicz took his work to the United States to continue his research at Yale University. Professor Jos-Ignacio Barraquer and Svyatoslov N. Fyodorov, MD introduced new principles of refractive eye surgery in 1964 and 1970.
Between 1973 and 1983, three researchers in New York invented the excimer laser. In 1987, New York ophthalmologist Stephen Trokel, MD was the first to use the technology to perform refractive corneal surgery on a patient.
LASIK eye surgery is born
In 1991, U.S. ophthalmologists Stephen Slade, MD and Stephen Brint developed a combination of Trokel’s laser surgery technique and the incision-based refractive surgery of the past, calling it LASIK eye surgery.
In 1995, with LASIK still not approved for widespread use, the FDA approved Stephen Trokel’s method of laser eye surgery, photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK.
This method involves the exclusive use of a laser, with no cut made in the cornea. Initially, surgeons used it to correct near-sightedness, with later developments allowing for the treatment of far-sightedness and astigmatism.
However, as PRK involves applying the laser directly to the surface of the cornea, patients experience longer periods of downtime and higher degrees of discomfort following the surgery compared to LASIK.
In 1996, the FDA approved the use of LASIK eye surgery. LASIK stands for Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis and involves the use of a manual incision to create a thin flap in the cornea.
The surgeon then lifts this flap and uses the excimer laser to reshape the tissue beneath. The flap also acts as a bandage to protect the operation site, reducing post-operative discomfort and eliminating the need for sutures.
LASIK revolutionizes refractive eye surgery
The advanced techniques and benefits of LASIK eye surgery catapulted it to the forefront of refractive eye surgery. In the following years, new generations of LASIK technology emerged including the femtosecond laser, which enables bladeless LASIK.
In 2003, the FDA approved the use of the VISX CustomVue laser vision correction system with wavefront technology for LASIK eye surgery, after trials of the system produced exceptional results.
The goal of wavefront-based LASIK is to improve the patient’s vision beyond what they see through their glasses or contacts.
LASIK eye surgery has been in the making for decades, and new developments have improved the process and its results exponentially. If you’re interested in LASIK, contact your local provider, and book an initial consultation to assess your suitability.