The History of LASIK and iLASIK By William Goldstein on December 11, 2017

Many inventions and discoveries happen in the most unexpected times and places in the world. As opposed to what many believe, LASIK isn’t a ‘latest’ discovery. In fact, the work on LASIK started way back in the 1950s. Today, iLASIK is one among the most commonly performed eye surgeries, primarily because it is a very fast procedure and takes just about fifteen minutes to be completed. It utilizes a unique eye mapping technique for creating a laser beam path. This guarantees more accurate results with minimal risk of errors. The technology continues to evolve with most of the improvements coming in the software that controls the pattern of laser correction.

Barraquer Kick-Starts Discovery Of LASIK

LASIK or ‘laser assisted in situ keratomileusis’ has changed the lives of many people all over the world. The man behind the development of LASIK, the pre-cursor to iLASIK  is Jose Barraquer, an ophthalmologist from Spain. The vision correction technique was first discovered in Bogota, Colombia in the 1950s. Barraquer’s discovery began with him cutting very thin flaps of the cornea. He then reshaped the cornea. For those who are unfamiliar with the structure of the human eye, cornea is a transparent outer layer covering the eye. It has a dome-like shape and plays a significant role in promoting vision focus.

The work of Barraquer worked as groundwork for Syvatoslav Fyodorov, a Russian scientist, about twenty years later. With the Spanish ophthalmologist’s insights, Fyodorov managed to develop what is termed ‘radial keratotomy’ (RK). RK became very popular in the United States in the 1980's.

An Accident Leads To A Discovery

The ability to correct vision with surgery that would lead to the concept of the LASIK surgery was discovered by Fyodorov. He treated a patient who had damaged his eye with the entry of some glasses pieces after an accident. He saw that the glass cuts received by the boy had ended up reshaping his cornea and ultimately corrected his vision focus. Many years after this accident, a team of doctors from the United States, who had reviewed the published findings of Fydorov undertook research and helped advance the surgery. IBM research’s Rangaswamy Srinivasan was the inventor of ‘ablative photodecomposition.’ The technique involves using an ultraviolet laser for etching out live tissue with excellent accuracy. This technique prevents any damage from occurring to the nearby untreated areas.

Eventually, the technique of combining a flap with the concept of reshaping the cornea with laser were combined to make LASIK a reality. Later, it was discovered that the flap could be created with laser as well, instead of with a metal blade. This became the modern day version of LASIK, known as iLASIK or bladeless LASIK.

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Dr. William S. Goldstein

Laser Eye Care Center

William S. Goldstein, MD, has been practicing laser eye surgery since 1991. He was one of the first doctors to offer advanced eye care in all of Michigan and is a member of several prestigious organizations: 

  • American Board of Ophthalmology
  • American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons

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