Brief History of Laser Eye Surgery

History of Laser Eye Surgery

Laser eye surgery has come a long way since its very beginnings in the 1940s. From new research and technology, laser eye surgery has become very effective, safe and routine now for millions of individuals around the world that undergo the procedure each year. If you are looking to rid yourself of the hassle of glasses or contacts, you are able to today very easily thanks to the doctors and surgeons who paved the way to allow a safe surgical method to correct a variety of vision problems. Even now, there are new device advancements, techniques and methods coming out all the time to improve upon what already is available. Here is a brief history of refractive laser surgery and how it developed into what it is today.

1948- Father Waclaw Szuniewicz, Polish missionary, and ophthalmologist

  • Considered to be the pioneer of refractive surgery, Father Szuniewicz came to the United States in 1948 to continue pursuing his experimentation of corneal reshaping (one of the first to do so) at Yale University in New Haven, CT.

1964- Professor Jose Ignacio Barraquer

  • Professor Barraquer made two significant contributions to the development of refractive surgery: keratomileusis and keratophakia.
  • Keratomileusis- an autoplastic procedure for the correction of ametropia (inability to focus images on the retina) in patients. The operation involved the removal, modification, and reinsertion of the corneal disc into the eye of the patient. This called for the use of a special microkeratome to remove the corneal disc, which was then frozen so it can be shaved down according to computer measurements.
  • Keratophakia- corneal tissue from a donor is frozen, shaped, and inserted into the cornea of a recipient

1970- Svyatoslov N. Fyodorov, MD

  • Dr. Fyodorov invented radial keratotomy, which decreases nearsightedness by a series of incisions into the patient’s cornea at specified depths. The location and number of incisions was dependent upon the amount of nearsightedness.

1973-1983- Excimer Laser

  • Three researchers from the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown, NY began exploring new uses for the recently acquired excimer laser by the Center’s laser physics and chemistry group. The laser works by using reactive gasses (chlorine for example) mixed with inert gasses (argon for example) that emit energetic pulses of UV light when electrically charged. These pulses than can make very precise changes in irradiated materials.

1987- Stephen Trokel, MD

  • Dr. Trokel was the first person to introduce Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK), patented the use of the excimer laser for the use of vision correction and performed the first successful laser surgery in 1987.

1991- Stephen Slade, MD and Dr. Stephen Brint, MD

  • Dr. Slade and Dr. Brint were the first ophthalmologists to perform LASIK in the United States. LASIK used a microkeratome to create a flap in the outer cornea that would be folded back so that the excimer laser could be used to reshape the inner cornea to correct for the refractive error.

1995- PRK Approved

  • The FDA approved the technique that was first performed by Dr. Trokel in 1987. PRK used a laser, rather than a blade (microkeratome) to remove the outer layer of the cornea, unlike LASIK that created a flap in the cornea. The recovery process was longer and more uncomfortable than that of LASIK.

1996- LASIK Approved by FDA

  • While LASIK had been performed in the US since the early 1990s, it was an “off-label” use of the excimer laser since it had not been approved. Clinical trials for LASIK did not begin until 1996.

2001- Bladeless LASIK

  • Dr. Tibor Juhasz, a biomedical engineer, began the movement of uses for the femtosecond laser in medical applications. In 2001, the FDA approved the use of the femtosecond laser, made by IntraLase, in LASIK procedures, which made the surgery completely bladeless.

That’s the brief history of the techniques, equipment, and research have helped refractive surgery develop into what it is today. If you have been considering getting laser eye surgery, talk to the professionals at Diamond Vision today. For a free consultation, visit today for more information! If you are searching for LASIK in Atlanta, you can contact our specialists. 

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