Today’s innovative LASIK started in 1948. Here’s a little history on how LASIK came to be.
Back in 1948, A Colombian ophthalmologist named Jose Barraquer first created the technique of reshaping the clear window of the eye, the cornea, to improve vision. He actually removed a section of the cornea, froze it, and then used an industrial lathe to reshape it. After it thawed, he sutured it back in place. He called it keratomileusis, which literally means “sculpting” of the “cornea.” This became the foundation for future modern refractive or vision correction surgery.
The second part of the equation that leads to LASIK was the development of the laser. In 1960 the ruby laser was first invented by a Jewish American physicist, Theodore Maiman. The type of unique laser later used for LASIK, the Excimer laser, was patented in 1973 by an American based physicist born in poverty in India, named Mani Lal Bhaumik. What made this laser special was it could remove tissue from the cornea, and reshape it, without thermal damage.
The first U.S. Studies for laser vision correction using the Excimer laser to reshape the surface of the cornea were started in 1988. This procedure was named photo-refractive keratectomy or PRK and is still performed today. However, the lasers are now infinitely more advanced.
The LASIK procedure, involving a protective flap, was next introduced in 1990. Here a bladed surgical instrument, called a microkeratome, also contributed to the development by Barraquer, was employed to first create a flap on the cornea under which the Excimer was used for reshaping the cornea. The combined procedure was named Laser Assisted in SItu Keratomileusis, or LASIK.
In 1999, the femtosecond laser (one billionth of a second) was developed and used to create flaps thanks to work done at the Kellogg Eye Center at the University of Michigan.
The LASIK procedure was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the FDA, in 1999.
The technology in LASIK has evolved much further. Now the flap can be made without a blade, by using a Femtosecond laser or Intralase. The Excimer laser can now be programed pre-op to not only correct for the prescription in your glasses, like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, but also correct for distortions or visual aberrations. This is referred to as Custom treatment. In the past 15 years, LASIK has been recognized as a “game changer” for vision correction and has gained exponential acceptance. The success and safety are well documented. There have now been over 50 million LASIK procedures performed worldwide over the last 40 years.