Discoveries and inventions can come from the most unlikely places sometimes. We are used to a handful of countries where innovation thrives, but this world changing discovery is not one of them.

LASIK eye surgery is not a ‘recent’ discovery, but one that had been in the making since the 1950’s. It is one of the most popular eye surgery procedures, largely due to how fast it is. On average it takes 15 minutes to complete the surgery for both eyes.

The procedure also uses eye mapping a technique that uses UV light to create a preempted path for the laser beam. This ensures a finer job with minimal errors.

Where did the enfamous LASIK eye surgery begin?

LASIK (Laser assisted in situ keratomileusis) is a discovery that is changing eye sight in our world. It was developed in Bogota, Colombia by a Spanish Ophthalmologist by the name of Jose Barraquer, in the 1950’s.


He started by cutting extremely thin flaps of the cornea, which were up to one hundredth of a millimeter and then he would alter the shape of the cornea. The cornea is the clear outermost layer of the eye which is dome shaped and plays the important part of helping in focusing vision.

How Barraquer evolved his creation

Barraquer’s work did not stop there as he went on to study how much of the cornea had to be left untouched to provide the eyes with stable long term results.

The accidental discovery of what we now call LASIK eye surgery

Barraquer’s work set the pace for Russian scientist Syvatoslav Fyodorov 20 years later who went on to develop radial keratotomy(RK) and also designed the first posterior chamber implantable contact lenses (phakic intraocular lens), ten years later. Fyodorov came to see the amazing results of LASIK first hand when he treated a boy who had accidentally gotten pieces of glass in his eye after a fall. He shaved a sliver off the cornea and noticed that the cuts the boy had received from the glass had reshaped the cornea and corrected the boy’s focus. The boy went on to report improved sight and Fydorov became very intrigued by the discovery.

Years later, some well funded America doctors who had read Fydorov’s published findings took up research and improved the surgery to what it is today.

Application of the surgery

Rangaswamy Srinivasan of the IBM research laboratory came up with ‘ablative photodecomposition.’ This is the use of an ultraviolet excimer laser to etch out living tissue with precision, without damaging the surrounding thermal area. This was in 1980, and five years later, Steven Trokel of Edward S Harkness Eye Institute, Columbia University in New York, published his work using the excimer laser in radial keratotomy.

He wrote:

“The central comeal flattening obtained by radial diamond knife incisions have been duplicated by radial laser incisions in 18 enucleated human eyes. The incisions made by 193nm far-ultraviolet light radiation emitted by the excimer laser, produced comeal flattening ranging from 0.12 to 5.35 diopters. Both the depth of the comeal incisions and the degree of central comeal flattening correlated with the laser energy applied. Histopathology revealed the remarkably smooth edges of the laser incisions.”

Is it a viable solution?

Trokel then came together with his friends Charles Munnerlyn and Terry Clapham and founded VISX USA Inc. They are a leading designer, manufacturer, and marketer of laser vision correction systems, with sales of up to $133.8 million.

In 1989, Marguerite B. Macdonald performed the first successful human VISX refractive laser eye surgery.

Since its discovery in the 50’s LASIK has corrected millions of eye sights around the world for conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Improvements and technology have improved LASIK a great deal as well.




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