Humans have sought a way to correct vision for a long time. The first eyeglasses appeared in the 13th century, and the first contact lenses showed up in 1888. However, for some, these solutions weren’t enough. They wanted a more permanent way to correct vision that would alter the eye itself and not rely on any external means of correction. Here is a brief walkthrough of the history of LASIK surgery.
Also in the 1970s, Dr. Svyatoslov N. Fyodorov treated a young boy with corneal injuries from shattered glass. After the injuries healed, Fyodorov found that his vision was actually better than before the injury. He theorized these cuts helped to flatten the cornea and correct his vision, and began experimenting with the process that would eventually become Radial Keratotomy, which used several corneal incisions to alter the cornea and make vision changes.
In the 1980s, the invention of the excimer laser helped to make this dream a reality. Originally invented to help make computer chips, this laser was found to be extremely precise and able to remove tissue during refractive correction surgeries. One Columbia University researcher, Dr. Stephen L. Trokel, used the laser to perform laser vision correction on animal cadavers, human cadavers, and eventually living rabbits and monkeys.
The first live human patients he treated were blind, and when their recovery showed no damage to the clarity and structure of the human cornea, the first sighted patients was treated in 1987. The next ten years were used to perfect the technique.
Dr. Stephen Slade and his scientific colleague, Dr. Stephen Brint, were the first ophthalmologists to perform LASIK in the United States in 1991. With more precise methods of surgical cutting available, traditional cuts could be combined with the excimer laser to produce a specific desired result. During LASIK, the surgeon makes a cut in the cornea that creates a cap, called a microkeratome. This procedure was named photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK.
Further refinement led to a procedure where the corneal cap was not completely removed from the cornea, but rather left partially attached. This made for easier repositioning of the cap, and thus began the era of laser assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK).
In 1995, the Food and Drug Administration approved PRK after a successful three-year trial on 1,600 eyes.
In 1999, scientists developed wavefront analysis. Wavefront technology maps a patient’s prescription, which are as unique as fingerprints.
2000s to Today
Shortly after the FDA’s approval of the procedure, improvements in LASIK tools and techniques allowed for predictable outcomes and a new form of treatment for people with large pupils or severe myopia, which posed problems with earlier versions of the surgery.
Wavefront analysis for LASIK gained U.S. FDA approval in 2002—the same year LASIK became the world’s most common elective procedure. 2002 also brought about the invention of 100% bladeless LASIK surgery. With bladeless LASIK, a a femtosecond laser, not a blade, is used to create a corneal flap at the precise depth and diameter desired by the surgeon. Both bladed and bladeless LASIK are proven safe and effective, but bladeless LASIK offers a variety of advantages for many patients.
Today, the understanding of who makes a good candidate has expanded, allowing surgeons to screen patients accordingly. The accuracy of visual outcomes has increased, and many patients begin to see improvements in the first few hours after surgery.
Patients who have received LASIK are overall happy with their results. An analysis of 3,000 peer-reviewed papers by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery revealed that the patient satisfaction rate for LASIK ranks at more than 95 percent.
If you are considering LASIK, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to see if you are a candidate. The technology to make this surgery possible has come very far in the last few decades, allowing patients to receive vision correction that is better than ever.