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LASIK Eye Surgery Developments

Using lasers for eye surgery is not new. In fact, doctors have been using a laser surgery method known as PRK for many years. What’s new is a popular surgical trend known as LASIK laser eye surgery.

New LASIK treatment is performed with the same kind of laser used in PRK or photorefractive keratectomy. PRK was the first surgical procedure that used laser-assisted sculpting to reshape the cornea. After PRK was established, LASIK surgery was developed.

Excimer lasers were the first refractive laser systems approved by the FDA. Initially used in PRK to treat myopia, these were later applied for the treatment of astigmatism. Eventually, doctors would begin to use these lasers in LASIK surgery to treat other refractive errors. In recent years, LASIK eye surgery developments have allowed doctors to treat myopia, hyperopia and astigmatism.

The major difference between LASIK and PRK surgeries is the way that the stroma, or middle layer of the cornea, is exposed before being vaporized by the laser. In PRK, the top layer of the cornea called the epithelium is scraped away to expose the stromal layer. With LASIK eye surgery developments, a flap is cut in the stromal layer and then folded back.

New Developments

Over the past decade, there have been major developments in laser vision correction technology, and in the overall understanding of the procedure. These improvements include larger treatment zones, improved eye tracking systems during the laser procedure and improved mechanical and laser microkeratomes to reduce flap complications. Through all of these new developments, none have caused so much excitement as the June 2003 FDA approval of CustomVue LASIK from VISX. This new development used wave front guided treatment, and became the prominent method of LASIK eye surgery.

Custom wave front guided new LASIK uses a wave print of the eye’s optical system as a guide for the laser reshaping. Data about the eye’s optical system is collected from hundreds of separate points over the central 6 mm area of the cornea, making this wave print 25 times more precise than an averaged measurement. Rather than using an averaged measurement from the central 6 mm to reshape the entire cornea, the cornea reshaping is customized at each of these hundreds of points from which the measurements were taken.

Wavefront guided LASIK eye surgery differs from conventional LASIK treatments in the measurement of the eye’s optics. Doctors must have accurate measurement of the optics of each eye in order to provide the best results from the LASIK eye surgery. The series of numbers and calculations derived from wave front technology can be used to program the laser for reshaping the cornea.

Before these new developments in wave front guided LASIK, the surgeon would have to objectively measure the eye with a handheld instrument or an automated measuring device, and then ask the patient to subjectively refine the measurement. This was not the most reliable method, as the eye’s optical system is not uniform throughout the central 6 mm of measurement. The new and improved LASIK wave front method can precisely measure the optics of light from minute areas over the central 6 mm of the cornea.

While conventional LASIK was and still is a very effective treatment, wave front guided new LASIK eye surgery developments have given surgeons the ability to provide patients with better results than the original methods.

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