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The History of LASIK: Innovations in Eye Care

By Gordon Wong, OD on November 27, 2016


A woman undergoing LASIK surgeryMillions of people around the world have experienced excellent vision without glasses or contacts thankts to LASIK. The procedure is safer and more accurate than it's every been thanks to continuing refinements of technique and new innovations in technology.

The road to LASIK is a long one, but it just goes to show how the principles at work have existed in the field of vision correction for more than 100 years. Let's briefly go over the history of LASIK right now.

Refractive Surgery in the Early 20th Century

Laser vision correction as we know it didn't really emerge until the late 20th century, but the first innovations in refractive surgery date back to the last 19th century and early 20th century. Rather than using a laser to reshape the cornea, early refractive surgery involved precise cuts made in the cornea to help improve overall vision. This approach to vision correction was first theorized in 1896.

In 1930, Japanese ophthalmologist Dr. Tsutomu Sato attempted a refractive surgery based on these theoretical principles. Unfortunately, the surgery led to corneal degeneration due to a lack of precision and technological limitations.

The 1960s: Keratomileusis

In the 1960s, an eye surgeon was able to perform a refractive procedure through corneal incisions. This surgery was known as keratomileusis, and it was developed by Colombian ophthalmologist Dr. Jose Barraquer. The surgery involved manually reshaping the cornea to improve vision. Again, technological limitations led to imprecise results, but the process did reveal the potential of corneal reshaping for vision correction.

The 1970s: Radial Keratotomy (RK)

In the 1970s, a further innovation in corneal reshaping occurred in the USSR. Dr. Svyatoslov Fyodorov developed a technique known as radial keratotomy (RK), which involves cuts made along the cornea to improve its shape. While still not perfectly precise, it demonstrated better results than keratomileusis.

1973: The Creation of the Excimer Laser

A game changer in eye surgery emerged in 1973. By this we mean the invention of the excimer laser. This laser used in the tech industry to precisely cut microchips and other materials. Eventually people would learn that the excimer laser was capable of cutting orgnaic tissue without causing serious damage.

1983: The First PRK Surgery

Welcome to laser vision correction as we know it. The first PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) surgery was performed in Germany, effectively enhancing patient vision without the need for glasses or contacts. PRK is a precursor to LASIK, and it's a procedure that's still offered and performed today by countless eye surgeons.

1991: The First LASIK Surgery

The first ever LASIK surgery was performed in 1991 by Dr. Stephen Slade and Dr. Stephen Brint. Unlike PRK, LASIK involved the creation of a flap in the topmost layer of the cornea. This exposes the corneal bed for reshaping, with the flap set down to help with the healing process.

1995: PRK Receives FDA Approval

Even though the first PRK procedure was performed in 1983, it would not receive approval from the FDA until 1995.

1996: LASIK Receives FDA Approval

Following on the heels of PRK, LASIK would receive FDA approval in 1996. Today it's been estimated that 600,000 people undergo LASIK surgery every year.

2003: Wavefront Technology and Custom LASIK

Wavefront technology is one of the relatively recent innovations in LASIK surgery. This digital mapping technology allows eye surgeons to create a highly detailed scan of the cornea, allowing for more precise revision of the cornea.

Learn More About Laser Vision Correction

To learn more about LASIK surgery and how it can help you better without the aid of glasses and contacts, be sure to contact our team of experienced eye care specialists today. We look forward to your visit and discussing these matters with you in greater detail.

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