LASIK surgery aims to improve the vision of a patient through the use of an excimer laser on a part of the eye known as the cornea. LASIK, which stands for Laser Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis, is a type of refractive surgery that alters the shape of the cornea to produce its results. Doctors use LASIK to treat myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), and astigmatism, in the hopes of eliminating a patient's need for corrective lenses. Over one million people have the Lasik procedure each year. Approximately 50,000 suffer vision complications, many are debilitating

LASIK Surgery: Overview of the Procedure

The LASIK procedure begins with the anesthetizing of the eye with eye drops. The surgeon then places an instrument called a microkeratome between the open eyelids of the anesthetized eye, and centers the microkeratome on the cornea. The surgeon uses the microkeratome to cut a flap in the stroma, the part of the cornea on which surgeons perform the LASIK procedure. First, a suction ring raises the pressure in the eye making the cornea rigid. This allows a small surgical blade housed in the microkeratome to make an even and smooth cut in the cornea, creating a flap that exposes the stroma. Though surgeons control some microkeratomes manually, most used today are automatic.

Once the surgeon cuts the flap, he or she releases the suction, removes the microkeratome, and folds the cut flap back to expose the underlying stroma. The surgeon then positions the patient under the excimer laser, which delivers laser pulses to the exposed stroma. Prior to the LASIK procedure, a doctor uses corneal topography to map the shape of the patient's eye. The topography's data is then entered into a computer that controls the excimer laser during the LASIK procedure. The laser is preprogrammed with the patient's data and computer controlled to remove the precise amount of tissue necessary to create the desired change in the cornea's shape.

Viewing the procedure through an operating microscope, the surgeon must make certain that the laser remains centered in the "surgical zone." After the laser application, the surgeon replaces the flap in its original position and cleans the eye to remove debris. The cornea begins healing almost immediately, without need for stitches to repair the cut flap.

While a patient may experience at least partial vision improvement almost immediately, it can take up to six months to gauge the complete effects of the surgery.

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