There’s never been such a good time to have poor eyesight! If you’re planning on having LASIK surgery, you’ll actually be benefiting from over 100 years of surgical eye correction techniques, from the first theories projected in the late nineteenth century to an almost pain-free laser procedure at our clinic.
In 1898, a Dutch surgeon called Lans put forward a theory that making incisions in the cornea would cause it to flatten, thus improving eyesight in short-sighted people. It wasn’t actually carried out until the late 1930s, when a Japanese ophthalmologist, Tsutomu Sato, pioneered the procedure. You’re probably wondering who on earth volunteered to go first! Well, according to our research, the first patients were Japanese military pilots – if you consider the glory bestowed on the kamikaze unit, it all starts to make a bit more sense.
Owing to the development of contact lenses after World War II, there was less demand for this type of surgery (radial keratotomy) and the procedure declined.
Later, in the 1970s, Svyatoslav Fyodorov, a surgeon in the USSR, operated on a boy’s eyes after the boy had fallen off his bike. He had been wearing glasses at the time and they had smashed, leaving shards of glass in his eyes. When this glass was removed and the cuts had healed, it was found to have had a positive effect – the boy’s corneas had changed shape and he no longer needed glasses; and with the advent of more precise diamond knives, radial keratotomy was reborn as a procedure.
Radial keratotomy was not without complications and problems. Indeed, surgeons found it difficult to make an incision of an accurate size and depth that would give reliably predictable results. More improvements were still needed.
In 1995, Photorefractive keratectomy or PRK was approved – the world’s first laser eye surgery procedure. The laser worked directly on the corneal tissue to change its shape and improve vision. A huge advance though this was, it came with very long recovery times so there was still a lot of room for improvement.
Later in 1999, LASIK came along, which is now the procedure of choice for correcting refractive errors. It had actually been invented in 1989 by Greek ophthalmologist Ioannis Pallikaris, but wasn’t approved for use until a decade later. In essence, a hinged flap is created in the cornea, this is then reflected back, a sculpting laser is then used to mould the tissue underneath and once done the flap is reflected back into position. This effectively tricks the cornea into thinking nothing has happened. Initially done by a blade, the flap is now made with a very precise laser.
It’s easy to see why the procedure has become so popular – using lasers for both the flap in the cornea and the change to its curvature means that it’s easy to control, has predictable results, it’s relatively painless and comes with a very short recovery time – all the complications presented by the other procedures are finally resolved.
LASIK is now the preferred laser eye correction procedure worldwide. It’s almost pain free and carries a very high success rate with minimal complications. When you have your laser eye surgery, think about how far the procedure has come. We also have to acknowledge the hard work and creative thinking of recent history’s ophthalmologists, and the bravery of some of those first patients.