History of LASIK Eye Surgery

Doctors first used refractive surgery in the 1970's to treat vision problems using a procedure called Radial Keratonomy (RK). IBM originally developed the excimer laser currently used in LASIK procedures to etch computer chips. After FDA approval in 1995, doctors began using the excimer laser to correct vision in the human eye. Initially, doctors used the laser on the surface of the cornea, in a procedure known as photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). Unfortunately, PRK procedures created a great deal of pain in a patient's eye and required a great deal of time to heal.

To avoid the shortcomings of PRK, doctors began using the excimer laser in LASIK procedures, which are less painful and heal more quickly. Until the FDA approval of the LASIK procedure in 1999, doctors performed LASIK as an "off label use" of the excimer laser. "Off label use" is the use of an FDA approved drug, biologic, or medical device in a manner for which the FDA has not yet approved its use. While such a use is not illegal, it does require that the doctors inform themselves about the product, base the products use on firm scientific rationale and on sound medical evidence, and maintain records of the product's use and effects.

Currently, the FDA has approved nine excimer lasers for use in LASIK procedures, including Summit Autonomous' LADARVision, Baush & Lomb's Technolas 217A, Dischler, Kremer, Lasersights' Laserscan LSX, Nidek's EC-5000, and VISX's Star S2 and S3. Reports suggest that nearly 80 percent of patients treated with LASIK gain 20/20 vision, and that up to 98 percent of patients see at least well enough to pass a drivers test.

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