History of Evolving Technology (Glasses, RK, and LASIK), Part 2

In case you missed part 1, please find it here.

The excimer laser, which is used to re-shape the eye, as part of the LASIK procedure. Courtesy of Nidek, Inc.

The excimer laser, which is used to re-shape the eye, as part of the LASIK procedure. Courtesy of Nidek, Inc.

As an alternative to RK, the excimer laser was developed in the late 1980s to treat refractive error by the cool sculpting of the corneal tissue, rather than making cuts to weaken the cornea. In 1987, this laser was first used on the surface of the human cornea after removing the surface cells in a procedure called PRK (photorefractive keratectomy). PRK was more accurate and stable then RK, but was somewhat uncomfortable and associated with blurry vision for a few weeks afterward while the surface cells re-grew over the eye. PRK (flapless LASIK) is still used today for patients who cannot have LASIK because of thin or abnormally shaped corneas. The FDA approved PRK for use in the United States in 1995.

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Over 7 Million LASIK procedures have been performed in the United States alone.

In 1991, a microkeratome (essentially a “planing instrument”) was used to create a corneal flap and the excimer laser was used to sculpt corneal tissue under the flap in a procedure called LASIK (laser-assisted in-situkeratomileusis). The surface cells of the cornea are left intact in LASIK; therefore the vision returns within a few hours with minimal or no discomfort. As LASIK was more patient-friendly than PRK, it became the procedure of choice for getting people out of glasses. LASIK has become extremely popular, and over seven million procedures have been performed in the United States alone. Doctors began performing

dougherty-header (1)LASIK in this country in the mid-1990s as an “off-label (not officially FDA approved) procedure” soon after PRK was approved in 1995. The FDA officially approved LASIK for use in the United States in 1999. Since it was originally developed, some minor modifications of the excimer laser and keratome technology have improved the safety and accuracy of LASIK.

Dr. Paul J. Dougherty

Medical Director – Dougherty Laser Vision