The title ‘laser eye surgery’, without any background knowledge, sounds like an ultra-modern procedure from the future. If you told someone in 1960 they’d be able to fix their vision with a laser, what sort of reaction would you get?
While laser eye surgery IS an ultra-modern procedure, its history actually starts many years ago with an early procedure called radial keratotomy.
In the 1950s, Columbian Opthamologist Jose Barraquer developed the microkeratome and keratomileusis technique. He would cut thin flaps in the cornea to alter its shape and investigate how much of the cornea was needed to be left unaltered to provide long-term results.
Following Barraquer’s work, Russian Scientist Svyatoslav Fyodorv developed Radial Keratotomy (RK) in the 1970s, and in the 1980s, and was responsible for the first posterior chamber implantable contact lens.
In 1980, Rangaswamy Srinivasan, a researcher at IBM, discovered an ultraviolet excimer laser could etch living tissue with precision and without damage to the surrounding area. He called this Ablative Photo-Decomposition (APD). Five years later, a researcher at Columbia University would take the excimer laser to the next level.
Stephen L Trokel (the aforementioned researcher at Columbia University), found the excimer laser to be extraordinarily interesting and started experimenting with implementing it into eye procedures on animal cadavers, then human cadavers, and eventually on living rabbits and monkeys. In 1985, he published his findings in radial keratotomy.
While nothing immediately came from these experiments, one of his colleagues would later use Trokel’s excimer laser theory in the very first successful Photorefractive Keratectomy procedure (PRK). The year was 1987 and her name was Marguerite McDonald.
McDonald’s career is celebrated by Opthamologists worldwide. Not only was she the first person to perform a successful PRK procedure, but in 1993 she was the first to use the procedure to treat farsightedness. In 2003 she was the first person in North America to perform Epi-LASIK, and also conducted the first wavefront-based laser surgeries in the United States. In addition to all that, she has won numerous awards for her work and was the first female president of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery and the International Society of Refractive Surgery.
In 1990 two European doctors enhanced PRK procedures by developing what would become known as LASIK. Their names were Dr. Loannis Pillakaris (Greece) and Dr. Lucio Burrato (Italy). The pair developed two types of what was known as ‘Flap and Zap’. Instead of working on the corneral surface, they used a microkeratome blade to cut a thin flap in the cornea to zap the tissue underneath (with the laser) and replace the flap like a natural bandage. By creating this flap, patients experienced less discomfort and a faster recovery.
Shortly after, Canada approved the excimer laser for use in PRK treatments, 1991, and then the United States followed suit in 1995. Four years later, in 1999, the United States approved LASIK. This was also the year that saw the development of wavefront analysis to map a patient’s prescription (which is as unique as a fingerprint). Programming this data into an excimer laser allows it to more precisely shape the cornea, resulting in a truly customized procedure with improved results.
In 2002, the United States FDA approved wavefront analysis and that year LASIK became the world’s most common elective procedure. That same year, iLASIK was invented (a 100% bladeless surgery) making use of a femtosecond laser to create the corneal flap more precisely. This development reduced healing time in patients even further as the corneal flap has far cleaner a cut than with traditional blades.
So now you know the history of eye laser treatments, why not get some more information one which treatment is best for you? There are now numerous different procedures, using laser eye treatment, that can help all different sorts of vision issues.
We offer free consultations to understand whether or not a patient is eligible for these processes. Book yours, today!