The field of eye surgery has advanced greatly over the past few decades. It is hard to imagine a world where I would not be able to offer my patients an array of different options for sight correction. This is something I am always thankful for – being able to present a buffet of options, whether it is spectacles, surgeries, contact lenses or treatment plans for each patient’s specific eyecare needs. This is a privilege which has come with the modern world and makes my plight an ever-enriching one. Undoubtedly the medical advances of the past have allowed me to not only give the best possible service, but also allow me to treat the most comfortable, informed, happy and healthy-eyed patient.
Yet, it was not very long ago that doctors were in a very different position. This is a world which I find difficult to even comprehend, as most of the treatments, drugs, and tools which are endlessly at my fingertips today, were once very much unavailable.
In 1948, eye doctors were beginning to scratch the surface of ophthalmology treatments for near-sightedness, investigating what more they could offer their patients. Then, fast forward to 1999, when the FDA approved the first laser surgery. So, what happened in-between, during almost half a century, which changed so much of the way I conduct my job as an eye doctor today?
As mentioned, 1948 sparked the start of the process of bettering treatment for nearsighted patients. This started when a device called the microkeratome first came into use. This began when Spanish ophthalmologist, Jose Barraquer Moner, began shaving tiny sections off of his patients' corneas to improve their vision. This was first achieved using a regular scalpel, but as he progressed he began using this microkeratome, a device which is still used today by doctors.
Then, in the 1980s, a technique called radial keratectomy began to be used as a precursor to LASIK. This technique of using tiny cuts to reshape the cornea was eventually rendered obsolete due to other advances in the eye surgery world.
And so, it was only in the late 80’s when LASIK started to become more common. It was during the 80’s when many surgeons managed to patent lasers as they became more and more medically promising. This catalysed a greater movement towards LASIK treatments, which entailed many years of trialling lasers such as the excimer and femtosecond lasers.
Then, finally in 1998, the FDA approved the first laser for LASIK surgery. This mainly pertained to LASIK procedure used a microkeratome to create the corneal flap in the first step of the procedure. Thereafter came the use of lasers in LASIK, creating a bladeless procedure with faster recovery.
Since my entering into Laser Refractive Surgery during my specialist training, as well as my formal start to performing laser in private practice in 1999, the medical advancements have become immense. LASIK has become one of the most popular corrective surgeries for the eye and therefore I am eternally in awe of, as well as giving thanks to, these past medical advancements.