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The History of LASIK Vision Correction Surgery

December 9, 2019

In the last couple of decades, LASIK has become an increasingly well-known form of vision correction surgery that many people who are dependent on glasses or contact lenses turn to when they want to start living with restriction-free vision.

As with all revolutionary medical procedures, it was a long road to get to where LASIK is today. And the journey involved ongoing innovations of the surgery itself, as well as studies on treatment outcomes, to achieve its current levels of safety and efficacy. 

To appreciate how LASIK vision correction went from an experimental surgery to the proven procedure we trust today, here’s a brief look at its history.

The Early Stages of LASIK Eye Surgery

Surgical solutions for refractive eye conditions date as far back as the 19th century. In 1898, Radial Keratotomy (RK) — a method that involved making tiny radial incisions in the corneal surface — was introduced to treat conditions like nearsightedness. However, as this method relied heavily on the manual skills of the surgeon, it saw a limited amount of success.

In the early 1960s, an ophthalmologist named Dr. José Barraquer developed a technique called keratomileusis, which, in Greek, means “carving the cornea”. Using a surgical blade called a microkeratome, Dr. Barraquer would remove a piece of corneal tissue, which was then frozen, reshaped and reattached to the surface of the eye.

The Game Changer

In the late 1970s, doctors began performing the RK procedure in the U.S. And in 1980, a major breakthrough came when IBM researcher Rangaswamy Srinivasan discovered that the excimer laser (which was initially developed for computer chip production) was also able to cut biological tissue with extreme precision and accuracy without damaging the surrounding area. This lead to its medical application in a process called Photorefractive Keratectomy (PRK) in which the outer layer (epithelium) of the cornea is removed, and the exposed corneal stroma is reshaped using the excimer laser.

The very first laser vision correction procedure occurred in 1988 when a 60-year-old woman with a serious vision problem allowed surgeon Marguerite McDonald to perform the first PRK procedure on her damaged eye.

LASIK is Born

In the early 1990s, ophthalmologist Dr. Ioannis Pallikaris combined the use of the microkeratome and the excimer laser to create what we now know as LASIK, an acronym for “Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis”. In a LASIK procedure, the microkeratome is used to create a thin flap in the cornea, then the excimer laser is used to reshape the underlying corneal tissue. The flap gives surgeons the ability to address vision problems at the source and works as a natural bandage to help with the healing process.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration officially approved the use of LASIK in 1999.


LASIK vision correction has become relatively common. In fact, approximately 700,000 LASIK surgeries are performed each year. And an analysis of 3,000 peer-reviewed papers by the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery found that more than 95 percent of LASIK patients worldwide were satisfied with the outcomes of their procedures.

As with any surgery, the success of LASIK vision correction relies heavily on whether or not a patient is a good candidate for the procedure.

If you’re interested in losing the glasses or contact lenses in favor of 24/7 crystal clear vision and want to know if you’re a candidate for LASIK, contact us today to schedule a free, no-commitment consultation with one of our friendly doctors! We look forward to seeing you!

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