Lasik Q & A

The History of LASIK

LASIK surgery is widely referred to as a modern medical procedure. So many people might be surprised to find that LASIK traces its origins all the way back to the 1960’s. The history of LASIK is as complex as the procedure, but it all began with one man.

A Spanish surgeon by the name of Dr. Jose Barraquer developed the technology for the first microkeratome tool in the year of 1960. Little did he know the instrument would be the future of a revolutionary procedure called LASIK surgery? The microkeratome is the instrument used to create the corneal flap in traditional refractory surgeries like LASIK and ALK. The microkeratome creates a corneal flap that is approximately 100-200 micrometers thick. The cornea itself is only 500-600 micrometers thick, which is in actuality incredibly thin. Imagine the precision required to cut just a fraction of that!

Early usage of the microkeratome in the 1960’s was limited to a surgery called keratomileusis. Keratomileusis was a predecessor of modern LASIK surgery, as its procedure was also to cut corneal flaps and change the shape of the eye to correct vision aberrations. The first proponents of keratomileusis would provide the research necessary to lay the foundation for modern LASIK, but LASIK, as we know it today wouldn’t make its appearance until nearly a quarter of a century later.

In 1990, an Italian surgeon by the name of Dr. Lucio Buratto, and a Greek surgeon by the name of Dr. Ioannis Pallikaris, started experimenting with the age-old keratomileusis technique. They combined the procedure with a new technology called photo refractive keratectomy. The new method that resulted quickly became the preferred method because of its advanced precision, increased success rate, and reduced risk.

A year later in 1991, two American surgeons named Dr. Brint and Dr. Slade perfected this procedure, and the first LASIK surgery was performed. The surgery was a success, and many others soon followed. Other surgeons adopted the technique and before long LASIK had become a common procedure.

Today, LASIK is a relatively common form of corrective surgery. Thousands of patients have benefited from the procedure. While it is not yet approved for everyone with vision impairment, the technology is constantly expanded, and new opportunities should be available soon.

Modern LASIK is comprised of two parts. In the first part of the operation, surgeons cut the corneal flap. This step remains strikingly similar to the first keratomileusis procedures in the 1960’s and still involves the use of the microkeratome instrument. Once the corneal tissue has been cut, surgeons have access to the middle section of the cornea, where the reshaping will occur.

At this second step in the procedure, surgeons utilize a tool called an excimer laser to reshape the cornea, while navigating away from surrounding tissues to avoid unnecessary complications. Corneal tissue is removed one layer at a time until the cornea has attained the ideal shape.

As soon as 24 hours after surgery many patients experience improved vision. Results peak after a six-month recovery period. A majority of LASIK patients attain 20/20 vision without glasses or contact lenses.

While the procedure has high credibility in the medical field, the majority of medical insurance packages do not yet approve it. Providers are working to make the procedure more affordable, but many LASIK patients feel the results are well worth the out of pocket expense.

Because some conditions may complicate your recovery, it is important to consult with your doctor before pursuing LASIK surgery. A small number of patients experience side effects during recovery, but surgeons work hard to reduce the risk by screening for good candidates. If you are tired of your contacts or eyeglasses, LASIK may be able to help you see the world in a new way.

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