People have understood the mechanics of eyesight for thousands of years. Writings and drawings on this subject go back as far as 2000 BC. And the quest to correct vision has never stopped. From the invention of eyeglasses hundreds of years ago to the fabrication of the first American contact lenses, the evolution of vision correction has indeed been astonishing. Now zoom ahead a few decades to the development of laser surgery, today one of the most popular methods of vision correction. The advent of computers and laser technology has made it possible to perform laser eye surgery to correct the shape of the cornea.
History of Vision Correction Surgery
Although many pioneering contributions led to the development of modern refractive surgery– that is any surgical procedure to help the eye focus light correctly- a key breakthrough occurred in the middle of the last century. In 1949, Dr. Jose Barraquer of Bogota, Colombia, developed the idea of lamellar corneal surgery (“lamellar” means “layered”). He discovered that lamellar surgery could reshape the cornea, enhancing the eye’s ability to focus. To do so, Barraquer removed a disc of the front portion of the cornea with an instrument called a microkeratome. The instrument was affixed to the eye through use of a vacuum ring; then the microkeratome shaved a small amount of the cornea at a predetermined depth. Dr. Barraquer froze the disc and then ground it into a new shape with a small lathe. He placed the newly shaped disc back on the cornea. The procedure of carving the cornea is called keratomileusis.
Two important refinements followed. In 1985, Dr. Casimir Swinger developed a method of reshaping the disc without freezing it (nonfreeze keratomileusis). Then, in 1987, Dr. Luis Ruiz, a protégé of Barraquer, used an automated microkeratome to reshape the cornea directly on the eye. This procedure, automated lamellar keratoplasty (ALK), was used to correct high levels of myopia and hyperopia. It is important to note that patients who have undergone these two procedures, precursors to today’s laser vision correction, have not experienced long-term complications from the corneal reshaping.
The Arrival of the Excimer Laser
The excimer laser was first used on human eyes in the late 1980s. The laser technology marked a significant advancement in the science of vision correction; the excimer laser uses a cool ultraviolet beam of light to vaporize tissue- that is, break up the molecules- with exacting precision and without harming adjacent tissue. Each pulse of the excimer laser removes a mere 1/100,000 inch of tissue.
Learn more about Laser Vision Correction, make your appointment with Dr. Ernest Kornmehl today.