Many people ask us, “What is LASIK?” After all, the popularity of LASIK vision correction has grown exponentially in the past decade. In fact, each year approximately 700,000 Americans have the procedure performed. But the commonality of this elective surgery begs the question: Where did LASIK get its start?
LASIK, or Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis, is the result of processes and technologies that have been developed over the course of 100 years and across the globe. Knowledge of the eye’s anatomy grew as sophisticated surgical techniques evolved, and the two finally came together into what has become a popular form of vision correction today.
Eye Surgery Developed Overseas
In the 1850s, a Dutch physician, Leendert Jan Lans, began comprehensive research into the principles of keratotomy – measuring the curvature of the cornea – and he promoted the use of surgical techniques to correct a variety of vision problems.
In the 1940s, these principles were put to the test in a controlled laboratory setting by several Japanese doctors. It wasn’t until the mid-1970s that Russian scientists determined that straight-line incisions placed in a spoke-like pattern around the periphery of the cornea (a process that became known as Radial Keratotomy, or RK) could be effective if it was confined to the anterior side of the cornea.
Vision Correction Surgery Comes to the U.S.
RK was introduced into the United States in 1978 by Leo Bores. It became a subject of great interest, and in 1980, the National Institutes of Health sponsored the Prospective Evaluation of RK study that provided factual, scientific data on RK that had been performed in a standard manner in nine centers across the U.S.
In 1980, the door opened for the development of present day LASIK surgery with the introduction of a carbon dioxide laser to create thermal shrinkage of the cornea in order to change corneal contour. The first use of the excimer laser took place in 1985 in Germany, followed in 1987 by L’Esperance in the U.S. The procedure was called photorefractive keratectomy (PRK).
Modern LASIK Corrective Eye Surgery
The current LASIK procedure avoids the haze and pain generally associated with the PRK procedure because it does not expose nerve endings like the earlier procedure had done. With LASIK, refractive eye surgery has become a nearly instantaneous, pain free, vision correction procedure that continues to grow in popularity across the globe.
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