When was LASIK invented?

Mr Glenn Carp at London Vision Clinic

Throughout history, there have always been people who suffer from poor vision.

This is unsurprising: As the body’s second most intricate and complex organ — with over 2 million moving parts — the human eye requires an incredibly precise arrangement of components to function correctly.

It takes just one of these elements to be the wrong shape, misaligned, or malfunctioning, for the light that falls on the eye to fail to focus properly and result in everything from a slight distortion to complete blindness.

For hundreds of years, people have turned to external devices to improve their view of the world. Vision correction devices like eyeglasses or the more recent contact lenses help do what many people’s natural lenses can’t: alter the angle at which light enters the eye and create an accurate and focused image.

Despite their success across the globe, eyeglasses have long been known for their endless list of drawbacks and annoyances — I mean, what can you expect from a technology developed in the 13th century? Thankfully we no longer live in medieval times and today we have the knowledge and technology to do away with glasses altogether and alter the shape of the eye itself.

Looking into the origins of LASIK Laser Eye Surgery

As far back as the 1800’s doctors began exploring how they could reshape the eye’s natural lens, the cornea. However, it wasn’t until the 1940’s when Spanish ophthalmologist Jose Barraquer started experimenting with the correction of errors in corneal refraction — how our eyes bend light — that eye surgery began to take off. His research led to the invention of the microkeratome, a precision surgical instrument still used today to create the corneal flap in LASIK. For his pioneering work, Barraquer is known today as the Father of Modern Refractive Surgery.

Over the next few decades, several incremental advancements were made in the emerging eye surgery field. The 1980’s saw what would be the next significant leap forward in eye surgery: the excimer laser. It was Stephen L. Trokel, an American Professor of Ophthalmology, together with a research group at IBM, who first uncovered the possibility of using the newly-invented excimer laser to perform surgical cuts within the cornea, but outside of the visual axis. John Marshall, a British Professor, then adapted the laser to remove central corneal tissue, which became the origin of Laser Eye Surgery as we know it today and the first widely used technique named photorefractive keratectomy (PRK).

It took several more years and a few independent groups joined the dots to introduce a procedure combining the microkeratome and excimer laser. Razhev and Lantukh in Russia, an Italian doctor by the name of Lucio Buratto, and Ioannis Pallikaris in Greece. It was 1989, and the process no longer required a complete removal of a section of the cornea — like in PRK — but rather just the creation of a small flap. This was the beginning of safer, more effective Laser Eye Surgery, and the era of laser assisted in situ keratomileusis (LASIK).

While LASIK is still the go-to technique for many surgeons, eye surgery technology is continually advancing. One of the latest developments in the field is ReLEx SMILE, a revolutionary technique that builds on the foundations of LASIK and transforms Laser Eye Surgery into a keyhole, minimally invasive procedure. In the years to come, we will no doubt be looking back again on the history of eye surgery and writing about how the invention of ReLEx SMILE changed the field for good!

If you’d like to book a consultation with us or find out more about the history of Laser Eye Surgery, leave us a comment or give us a call us on 020 7224 1005.