Old operating room

Imagine a world where a simple, quick, and safe procedure could eliminate the need for glasses or contact lenses. That’s the reality for millions of people who have undergone LASIK eye surgery. This revolutionary vision correction technique has transformed countless individuals’ lives, allowing them to see clearly without the constraints of traditional vision aids. But how did LASIK come to be, and what does the future hold for this remarkable procedure? Let’s embark on a journey through the fascinating history of LASIK eye surgery and uncover the secrets behind its success.

Key Takeaways

  • The invention of LASIK revolutionized vision correction and has achieved patient satisfaction rates of 92-98%.
  • FDA approval and technological advancements have enabled more precise outcomes for patients undergoing LASIK surgery.
  • When selecting a provider, research experience, technology employed, cost & patient satisfaction to achieve the best outcome.

The Origins of LASIK: From Skepticism to Breakthrough

The evolution of LASIK from concept to reality reflects a journey marked by skepticism, enthusiasm, and groundbreaking research. This journey is characterized by the contributions of pioneering individuals and pivotal moments that have collectively shaped the course of refractive surgery.

Radial Keratotomy

Radial keratotomy (RK), developed by Dr. Svyatoslav Fyodorov, was initially met with mixed reactions from the medical community. While some viewed it with skepticism due to its variable outcomes and potential for long-term corneal instability, others were enthusiastic about the possibility of correcting vision through surgical means. Despite the divided opinions, RK’s development was crucial as it demonstrated the cornea’s capacity for surgical modification to improve vision, thus encouraging further research into corneal refractive surgery.


A significant turning point in this research was the development of photorefractive keratectomy (PRK). PRK represented a major advancement in laser vision correction by using an excimer laser to reshape the corneal surface precisely. Unlike RK, which involved making radial incisions in the cornea, PRK removed a portion of the corneal tissue to change its curvature, a technique that improved the predictability of surgical outcomes.

PRK gained official approval in Canada in 1991 and in the United States in 1995, marking it as one of the first laser refractive procedures to receive such recognition. The approval of PRK was a watershed moment for vision correction surgery, as it validated the use of laser technology in ophthalmology and demonstrated the potential for safe and effective refractive procedures.


The success of PRK opened the door for the development of LASIK. While PRK modified the cornea’s surface, LASIK took the procedure one step further by creating a flap in the cornea and then reshaping the underlying tissue. This approach was built on the foundation of earlier pioneers such as Jose Barraquer, who innovated the corneal flap technique, and Dr. Gholam A. Peyman, who patented the LASIK procedure. Dr. Stephen Trokel’s application of the excimer laser for corneal surgery and Dr. Ioannis Pallikaris’s flap technique refinement were instrumental in developing LASIK. Meanwhile, Margaret McDonald’s study of LASIK’s outcomes and safety helped establish the procedure’s credibility and widespread acceptance.

The transition from RK to PRK and ultimately to LASIK illustrates scientific progress’s incremental and collaborative nature. Each step in this progression built upon the previous ones, with PRK serving as a critical intermediary that bridged the gap between the mechanical incisions of RK and the sophisticated laser precision of LASIK. The approval of PRK was not just a regulatory milestone but also a signal to the medical community and the public that laser vision correction had arrived as a reliable and mainstream option for patients.

By integrating these historical insights into the narrative, we understand how LASIK emerged from a series of innovations to become the preeminent solution for refractive vision correction it is today.

The year 1989 marked a significant milestone in the history of vision correction, as Dr. Gholam A. Peyman invented LASIK. Building upon the research and techniques of his predecessors, Dr. Peyman introduced a new method for reshaping the cornea. The LASIK procedure involves forming a thin flap on the eye, folding it back to allow a laser to reshape the corneal tissue beneath, and then repositioning the flap.

At the heart of LASIK is the excimer laser, which uses ultraviolet light to precisely etch living tissue without causing thermal damage to surrounding cells. This technology enabled surgeons to accurately reshape the cornea, correcting refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Including the excimer laser in LASIK surgery signalled a significant development in vision correction, presenting a safe and efficient substitute for glasses and contact lenses to patients.

Since its invention, LASIK has undergone numerous refinements and advancements, improving patient outcomes and reducing the risk of complications. With patient satisfaction rates reported between 92 to 98 percent, LASIK has set the benchmark for laser vision correction, aiding millions globally in achieving clear vision without dependence on glasses or contacts.

FDA Approval and the Rise of LASIK Popularity

The ascendancy of LASIK as a preferred vision correction method is due to its stringent testing and approval procedures. LASIK received FDA approval in 1999 following comprehensive research and clinical trials. This regulatory milestone was crucial in adopting LASIK as a safe and effective vision correction procedure.

The LASIK Quality of Life Study, conducted by the FDA, revealed that while a small proportion of patients may experience dissatisfaction and disabling symptoms, the overwhelming majority of LASIK patients report positive outcomes. This high level of patient satisfaction has contributed to the popularity of LASIK as a preferred choice for vision correction.

Today, LASIK is recognized as a reliable and effective option for those seeking to improve their vision without the need for glasses or contact lenses.

As LASIK continues to gain popularity, its success can be attributed to:

  • Its FDA approval
  • The dedication of researchers, surgeons, and industry professionals who have worked tirelessly to refine and improve the procedure
  • Ongoing advancements and a commitment to patient care

LASIK remains a trusted choice for vision correction and LASIK treatment around the world.

Technological Advancements in LASIK

Since its inception, LASIK has undergone a continuous transformation, with each technological advance bringing about a new level of safety and precision. The journey of LASIK technology is one of innovation and refinement, improving not only the efficacy of the procedure but also the comfort and satisfaction of patients.

The Advent of the Excimer Laser

Introducing the excimer laser was the first major leap forward in LASIK technology. Unlike previous methods that used mechanical tools to reshape the cornea, the excimer laser allowed for contactless corneal reshaping. This ultraviolet laser breaks the molecular bonds in the corneal tissue, allowing for precise ablation with minimal thermal damage to surrounding tissues. The precision of the excimer laser was unparalleled, enabling surgeons to achieve predictable results and significantly reducing the risk of complications associated with earlier techniques.

Customization with Wavefront Technology

Wavefront technology marked another significant advancement in LASIK. This technology involves mapping the eye’s surface in great detail, allowing surgeons to tailor the laser treatment to the unique imperfections of each patient’s vision. Wavefront-guided LASIK measures how light travels through the eye, creating a 3D map of the cornea’s aberrations. This map is then used to guide the excimer laser in customizing the corneal ablation pattern, resulting in a more precise correction and the potential to address not only nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism but also more complex visual distortions known as higher-order aberrations.

Flap Creation with Femtosecond Lasers

The creation of the corneal flap, a critical step in the LASIK procedure, has also seen technological evolution. Intralase, developed by Abbott Medical Optics Inc., marked a significant advancement in LASIK technology. It introduced a new method for creating the corneal flap using femtosecond laser technology, a significant departure from the traditional microkeratome method.

The traditional corneal flap creation method involved a mechanical device known as a microkeratome. While effective, this method sometimes led to complications such as irregular or incomplete flaps.

The introduction of Intralase revolutionized this crucial step in the LASIK procedure by allowing for a bladeless approach. The femtosecond laser, the heart of the Intralase system, emits ultra-fast pulses of light to create a precise, repositionable corneal flap at a predetermined depth and diameter. This technology can make rapid, precise, and microscopic changes to the cornea.

The accuracy and consistency of the Intralase method significantly reduced the risk of flap-related complications, making the LASIK procedure safer and more reliable. This innovative technology has been a game-changer in the field of refractive surgery, contributing to the improved outcomes and high patient satisfaction rates associated with LASIK.

Real-Time Eye Tracking Systems

The integration of eye-tracking systems has greatly enhanced the safety and precision of LASIK procedures. The VisX S4 Star laser features an advanced tracker that adjusts to the minutest of eye movements in real time during the surgery, ensuring the laser’s accurate placement. This sophisticated system can track and compensate for eye movements along the X and Y axes, maintaining the laser’s precise alignment with the treatment area. This technology has significantly reduced the risk of misplaced laser pulses, ensuring that the laser ablation occurs exactly where it is intended, even if the patient’s eye moves involuntarily. These systems monitor the eye’s position during the laser treatment, adjusting the laser delivery in real time if the eye moves. This technology ensures that the laser ablation occurs exactly where it is intended, even if the patient’s eye moves involuntarily, thus safeguarding against misplaced laser pulses that could affect visual outcomes.

Enhanced Diagnostic Tools

Advancements in diagnostic tools have provided surgeons with a better understanding of the cornea’s structure and the eye’s refractive errors. Devices such as corneal topographers and tomographers offer detailed images and measurements of the cornea, facilitating a more informed surgical plan and the ability to predict post-surgical outcomes with greater accuracy. Devices such as corneal topographers and tomographers offer detailed images and measurements of the cornea, facilitating a more informed surgical plan and the ability to predict post-surgical outcomes with greater accuracy. A notable advancement in this field is the implementation of the iDesign 2.0 system by Johnson & Johnson. This technology provides a high-definition scan that measures and maps irregularities of the eye that could impact vision. It is utilized to create a blueprint of each unique eye, which then guides the LASIK treatment, enhancing the precision and effectiveness of the procedure.

Improved Patient Comfort and Recovery

Technological advancements have also focused on the patient experience, to make the LASIK procedure as comfortable and convenient as possible. Innovations in surgical techniques and post-operative care have reduced the discomfort during and after the procedure, leading to quicker visual recovery and allowing patients to return to normal activities in less time.

Comparing LASIK to Other Laser Eye Surgeries

LASIK is not the only laser eye surgery available for vision correction. Other procedures, such as PRK and LASEK, also offer solutions for correcting refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. The primary difference between these procedures lies in the method of corneal reshaping: while LASIK creates a flap in the cornea, PRK and LASEK do not.

When comparing LASIK to PRK, one notable difference is the recovery time and pain associated with each procedure. LASIK is known for its shorter recovery period and less pain than PRK. A 2017 systematic review found that PRK patients were less likely to achieve a desirable refractive error than LASIK patients. However, with the advent of modern pharmacological therapy, such as the use of drops like Prolensa, there is virtually no difference in the post-operative pain experienced between the two procedures.

LASEK, another laser eye surgery option, shares similarities with LASIK in correcting vision problems. However, LASEK does not create a corneal flap; the recovery time is generally longer than LASIK. Ultimately, the choice between LASIK, PRK, and LASEK will depend on individual patient needs and their eye doctor’s recommendations.

The Future of LASIK Eye Surgery

The future of LASIK eye surgery harbours thrilling prospects, with researchers persisting in exploring new techniques and technologies to enhance vision correction results even further. One area of research is the development of new microscopy techniques that eliminate the need for corneal cutting in LASIK. By using advanced imaging technology to target and reshape the cornea without incisions accurately, this innovation can potentially enhance safety and outcomes for LASIK patients.

Another area of exploration is using eyedrops as a potential alternative for correcting refractive errors. While some of these technologies are still experimental and have yet to be tested on humans, the ongoing research and innovation in the field of LASIK eye surgery promise a bright future for vision correction.

Choosing the Right LASIK Provider

Choosing the appropriate LASIK provider is vital in securing the most favourable outcomes for your vision correction. For a knowledgeable decision, it’s necessary to:

  • Conduct comprehensive research
  • Inquire about the surgeon’s experience and the technology used
  • Take into account factors like cost and patient satisfaction rates

When evaluating LASIK providers, it’s important to consider the most recent technologies employed in the procedure, such as Wavefront technology, femtosecond laser, and EagleVision®️. These technologies allow for personalized treatments, accurate corneal reshaping, and improved vision outcomes, making them vital factors in selecting a provider.

Remember, choosing the right LASIK provider is a decision that will impact your vision for the rest of your life. Researching and selecting the best provider for your needs will help ensure a successful outcome and a lifetime of clear vision.

Real-Life Stories: Successes and Challenges

Actual experiences of LASIK patients offer invaluable understanding into the triumphs and hurdles of the procedure. These stories emphasize the importance of proper patient selection and postoperative care in ensuring the best possible outcomes. LASIK candidacy is not suitable for everyone. Some patients may be disqualified, due to characteristics like large pupils, thin corneas and dry eyes..

Postoperative care is essential for LASIK patients to reduce the chance of complications and promote healing. Instructions typically include:

  • Resting
  • Wearing dark eyeglasses to protect the eyes from bright lights
  • Using protective goggles to prevent rubbing the eyes while asleep
  • Following directions for prescription drops
  • Lubricating the eyes with preservative-free tears

By sharing these real-life stories, we can learn more about the successes and challenges faced by LASIK patients, helping future patients make informed decisions about their vision correction options and ensuring the best possible outcomes for their individual needs.


Throughout its fascinating history, LASIK eye surgery has revolutionized the field of vision correction, providing millions of people with the freedom to see clearly without the constraints of glasses or contact lenses. From its early pioneers to its current technological advancements, LASIK continues to evolve and improve, offering patients a safe and effective option for vision correction. As we look to the future of LASIK, we can expect even greater innovations and advancements, ensuring that this remarkable procedure remains at the forefront of vision correction for years to come.

Frequently Asked Questions

When was LASIK eye surgery invented?

LASIK eye surgery was invented in 1989, when lasers were first used to introduce precision into the technique developed by Jose Barraquer in the 1950s.

How has LASIK changed over the years?

LASIK has significantly improved over the years by introducing newer technologies like the VisX Excimer Laser, which was equipped with eye-tracking technology for increased accuracy and safety. This advancement revolutionized the procedure and made it much safer for patients.

Why is LASIK surgery declining?

As consumer awareness increases and adverse side effects of LASIK become more widely known, fewer people are opting for the surgery. This, combined with the prevalence of “LASIK Mills” with questionable ethics, has led to a decline in LASIK procedures.

What is the oldest for LASIK?

The FDA approves LASIK surgery for anyone aged 18 and older, making it the oldest form of laser vision correction available. While age 40 and above may be more at risk for certain vision conditions, there is no age limit for those wanting to undergo LASIK surgery.

How did NASA invent LASIK?

NASA’s Eye Tracking Device technology was used to track astronauts’ eyes and study the effect of weightlessness on humans, while a laser radar system was employed to dock space vehicles and refocus and reshape the cornea for LASIK surgery. This innovation from NASA revolutionized vision correction treatment.


  1. History of LASIK – National Center for Biotechnology Information
  2. LASIK: A History and Update on Current Practice – National Center for Biotechnology Information
  3. The History of LASIK – Journal of Cataract & Refractive Surgery
  4. The Evolution of LASIK: An 18-Year Experience – Healio
  5. LASIK: Past, Present, and Future – American Journal of Ophthalmology
  6. The History of Laser Eye Surgery – LASIK MD
  7. The History and Evolution of LASIK – Ophthalmology Times
  8. The Evolution of Refractive Surgery – Review of Ophthalmology.


Photo graph of Dr. Conlon operating with loops on.

Dr. M. Ronan Conlon started his career in the field of ophthalmology at the same time as the development of refractive eye surgery in Canada. In 1996, he brought laser technology to Canada from Germany, which allowed him to perform laser eye surgery before it was available in the United States. With the establishment of the Conlon Eye Institute, Dr. Conlon has performed more than 40,000 refractive procedures and has advanced his expertise in LASIK and refractive cataract surgery.

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