The History of LASIK Eye Surgery | Seattle LASIK Surgery Clinic

Here in the United States, most people have heard of LASIK surgery, also known as laser eye correction surgery. But a couple decades ago, it might have sounded like something straight out of a science fiction novel. “They’re going to use lasers … to correct my vision?” might have been the typically reaction of the average person.

Since the LASIK procedure was first introduced in the nineties, millions of people have undergone the safe procedure to permanently correct their vision. What most people don’t know is that at one point in time, laser vision correction was purely experimental.

Over the years, a couple of pioneering surgeons realized that lasers could potentially have the ability to fix certain vision problems. They experimented, logged their findings in medical journals and eventually the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gave approval for the LASIK procedure.

Closeup of woman's blue eye

The Introduction of Radial Keratotomy

In the late 1970’s, eye doctors were using a technique known as “radial keratotomy” in the United States to help fix vision conditions, such as nearsightedness and astigmatism. With this procedure, multiple incisions are made in the cornea to correct and shape refractive errors. As a result, those who suffered from these conditions were less reliant upon their glasses.

Despite its advancements in vision correction, radial keratotomy had its drawbacks. Sutures were required to re-attach the cornea after it was detached surgically. However, detaching the cornea is not ideal. In the late eighties, surgeons began making a flap of the cornea, which resulted in lower risk and a shortened healing time. By this time, new surgical tools were developed which allowed for better and more precise incisions.

Vision Correction in the Eighties

Along with neon clothes, big hairdos and rise of MTV, the eighties saw the perfection of lasers for use in many fields. Originally used for making computer chips, these lasers found a role in helping with eye surgery. Eye doctors developed the excimer laser which was instrumental in helping remove tissue during refractive surgery. It was considered to be faster, safer, and more prone to success than radial keratotomy.

Photorefractive Keratectomy in the Nineties

Laser eye surgery finally caught the attention of the FDA in 1995. They began extensive testing and clinical trials on a procedure called photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). The trial lasted three years and 1,600 eyes were successfully operated on. In this procedure, a laser flattened the cornea of people who suffered from nearsightedness. As a result, success rates rocketed and healing times decreased.

Today’s Laser Vision Correction Procedure

The initial clinical trials for LASIK began in 1996. The LASIK procedure combines excimer laser technology and incisions using a device called a microkeratome. In this procedure, a corneal flap is cut and the eye surgeon corrects the tissue shape with a laser. The flap is returned to its normal position and protects the eye as a quasi-natural bandage during the healing process.

IntraLase LASIK (iLASIK) is considered the most technologically advanced method offered. iLASIK uses a wavefront analyzer to enable our surgeons to customize the LASIK procedure to the patient’s individual eyes. Since iLASIK is a bladefree, all-laser approach, this reduces the chance of human error. It also allows for people who were once unable to get LASIK (due to having thin corneas), to have the procedure done.

LASIK Eye Surgery in Seattle and Burien

If you’ve been considering LASIK or bladefree iLASIK surgery, contact Clearview Eye & Laser to schedule an appointment. Our expert eye care doctors will determine if you’re an eligible candidate for LASIK surgery. We have two offices located in West Seattle and Highline/Burien for your convenience. Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions regarding LASIK.


Read more articles on LASIK for Clearview Eye & Laser:

How to Choose a LASIK Surgeon
Bladeless iLASIK versus LASIK
How to Prepare for LASIK Surgery