The history of Lasik eye surgery actually has its origins back in the 1950’s with techniques that would lead to the introduction of lasers into this field. Over the years, Lasik eye surgery has evolved with the times and today is considered one of the leading techniques in the correction of eyesight.
Before Lasik Eye Surgery
In the 1950’s, Spanish ophthalmologist Jose Barraquer working in Bogota, Columbia developed the keratomileusis and microkeratome techniques of reshaping the cornea of the eye. These techniques were developed over the next two decades and by the 1970’s, Svyatoslav Fyodorov, a Russian scientist developed radial keratotomy (RK) as well as designed the first contact lens implants in the 1980’s. These techniques paved the way for Lasik eye surgery.
The Development of Lasik Eye Surgery
By 1980, Rangaswamy Srinivasan who worked at the IBM Research laboratory, made the discovery that an ultraviolet excimer laser could cut into living tissue without creating any thermal damage to the surrounding tissues. He called the new discovery, “ablative photo-decomposition”, but it was five years later when Steven Trokel published his work on using the excimer laser in radial keratotomy. Along with Terry Clapham and Charles Munnerlyn, Trokel founded VISX USA Inc. In 1989, Dr. Marguerite B. MacDonald performed the first VISX refractive laser eye surgery.
Interestingly enough, the patents for what would become Lasik eye surgery were being initiated back in 1982 when Samuel E. Blum was granted the first one in this field. In 1989, Gholam A. Peyman was granted a US patent for Lasik as well. These particular patents were granted on devices that used broad-beam PRK and Lasik techniques.
However, it was in 1991 when J.T. Lin was granted a patent for developing what is known as “flying-spot” Lasik design which is now being used around the world. S. Lai was granted a patent in 1993 for developing a tracking device which prevented decentration in Lasik procedures.
After enjoying success in different parts of the world, the FDA authorized a trial of the excimer laser in 1989. Summit Technology under Dr. David Muller was the first to be granted FDA approval for using this technique and technology. From this initial test period, the FDA then expanded its approval in 1992 to ten VISX centers to use Lasik technology.
By 1998, the Kremer Excimer Laser received FDA approval for use in Lasik surgeries. Summit Technology was granted approval afterwards to mass produce excimer lasers and other companies such as VISX followed suit. However, I. Pallikaris was the first to use the excimer laser for eye surgeries and suggested a new technique where the flap of the cornea could be raised prior to using the PRK with excimer laser. This new technique renamed the procedure “Lasik” which is how it is known today.
Since the early 1990s, there have been developments in laser technology that includes intra-operative, bladeless flap incisions, larger spot areas, corneal pachymetry and even wave-front optimized or guided techniques which have flourished. All of these techniques have been designed to correct the vision without damaging the retina or optic nerve.