LASIK, an acronym for Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis, has revolutionized the vision correction industry. Although the idea that vision improvement could be made possible by flattening the cornea was proposed a century ago, it wasn’t until the 1930s that doctors tried cutting the cornea to change its shape.
Radial Keratotamy – the Predecessor to LASIK
At times, medical discoveries come about in the oddest of ways. A young physician leaves out a Petri dish while studying bacteria and voilà – Penicillin is born. Clinical trials on the drug Sildenafil don’t produce anticipated results for use on angina and hypertension, but when the male trial subjects are reluctant to return the unused pills that leads to the discovery of Viagra – an oral drug for male impotence. The story behind Radial Keratotamy is no less amazing.
A Russian doctor had been treating a young lad with cuts in his eyes from broken spectacles during a fall. The boy sustained only minor eye damage when the broken glass shaved a layer off the eye’s outer surface. When the previously near-sighted boy showed vision improvement, Dr. Svyatoslav Fyodorov became intrigued, eventually going on to publish his discoveries. American doctors later expanded upon Dr. Fyodorov’s discovery after obtaining research funding for the procedure.
A Brief LASIK Timeline in America
- 1978 – American doctors realize the potential for coupling the Radial Keratotamy surgery with an Excimer laser
- 1980 – the Excimer laser is first used by a doctor on other biological tissue
- 1983 – a landmark paper is published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology, outlining the potential for the Excimer laser use in refractive surgeries
- 1989 – first patent for LASIK granted
- 1992 – ten surgeons test the Visx laser at ten U.S. centers
- 2000 – an estimated one million people undergo vision correction with LASIK