The History Of Laser Eye Surgery

What we’re going to do is fire a laser with precise accuracy at your eye. It will change the shape of your cornea while the surrounding tissue remains intact and then you’ll walk away with clearer vision. No this isn’t science fiction, it’s laser eye surgery from BoydVision. 

Despite what most people believe, laser eye surgery has been around for decades. A number of scientific and technological advances in the latter half of the 1900s have turned this seemingly sci-fi operation into one of the most commonly performed operations in North America. But how did this operation go from fictional to functional? Let’s find out!

The Father Of Refractive Surgery

José Barraquer developed the first refractive surgical procedure in the 1950s when he cut thin corneal flaps to reshape the eye of his patients. He also engineered numerous surgical instruments to help his patients improve their vision using these new surgical techniques. As a leading researcher in the field of ophthalmology, he laid the groundwork for how we deal with refractive errors today. 

While Barraquer continued his research on refractive surgery, an IBM researcher named Rangaswamy Srinivasan was experimenting with ultraviolet excimer lasers to precisely etch designs into circuit boards. 

In 1981, Srinivasan, along with a few other IBM physicists, speculated that this same laser could be used to etch designs onto living tissues. The team experimented with the leftovers of a Thanksgiving turkey and found that this was indeed the case. A key observation made during these experiments was that no thermal damage was left on the surrounding flesh of the turkey. 

Taking Steps Closer To Laser Eye Surgery

A few short years after this Thanksgiving dinner, Stephen Trokel approached Srinivasan about the possibility of using an excimer laser to reshape corneas. As a doctor of ophthalmology, Trokel was able to combine the refractive correction knowledge of Barraquer with the work of Srinivasan’s laser. This was the real beginning of modern-day laser eye surgery. 

Trokel tested this new procedure on cadavers, mapping the corneal shapes before and after the procedure. He found that the laser was able to effectively sculpt the corneas of these cadavers.

The First Human Laser Eye Surgery

On March 25th, 1988 the very first live human laser eye surgery took place in Louisiana. The surgeon, Marguerite B. McDonald, along with her research team including Stephen Trokel, performed a PRK procedure on a 62-year-old woman with cancer. The success of this first operation spurred the FDA to start allowing trials to be performed on blind humans. 

In 1995, a commercial version of laser eye surgery was approved by the FDA. 

Laser Eye Surgery Today

We now use laser eye surgery to safely treat refractive errors including myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism. The operation is quick, recovery is simple, and many patients are able to see better the day after their operation. BoydVision uses additional preoperative testing, like wavefront mapping, to deliver better final results versus standard procedures. 

Our staff and equipment deliver the highest quality and care possible to our patients. If you’re interested in booking a free laser eye surgery consultation, give us a call at 604.430.9560.