How Lasik Surgery Works

LASIK surgery is a delicate, sensitive process that uses lasers to correct vision problems. Though the procedure isn’t for everyone, understanding how LASIK surgery works can help you decide whether you’re interested in pursuing this treatment option.

The Beginning of LASIK Surgery Techniques
Columbian Jose Barraquer, M.D. is considered the father of laser eye surgery. In the 1950s, he developed the process of cutting flaps in the cornea or manually altering the cornea to change the shape and measurements of the eyes as a way to correct vision problems caused by abnormal refraction.

In these early stages, a layer of the cornea was removed, operated on and then replaced in the eye. Several ophthalmologists had experimented with this type of cutting the cornea to treat eye problems, but most had mixed results, often damaging the cornea and worsening the patient’s vision.

Excimer: The Basis of the Science of LASIK
Though lasers had already been used to treat certain eye issues like glaucoma for several years, the excimer laser revolutionized laser eye surgery in 1975.

The excimer laser uses ultraviolet light to reshape the cornea by breaking the molecular bonds of the material within the eye. Instead of being cut or burned away, material can simply be destroyed, gently and more smoothly reshaping the cornea. Some eye doctors do still perform surgeries using non-ultraviolet lasers or blade tools, but today, many patients and doctors prefer LASIK.

In the 1908s, Ioannis Pallikaris, M.D., coined the term LASIK (laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis) and was the first doctor to successfully operate “in-situ,” or on site. Rather than removing a layer of the cornea for surgery, Dr. Pallikaris performed the surgery beneath a raised flap of the cornea. Once the cornea corrections are complete, the flap is smoothed back over the eye and bonds back into place within a few minutes. This procedure quickly caught on in the United States and worldwide, largely replacing photorefractive keratotomy (PKR) surgeries, which don’t utilize ultraviolet lasers.

LASIK Surgery Today
The Food and Drug Administration began approving lasers for PKR treatments in 1995 and for LASIK treatments in 1998.

LASIK surgeries in the 21st century are more streamlined and generally easier on the patient. The eye is numbed and a flap of the cornea cut using either a blade or a laser. The cornea is flattened before the laser makes the necessary adjustments to the problem areas of the eye.

With the advancements in technology, recovering from LASIK surgery is a smoother process for most patients.