Laser eye surgery has improved the vision of millions of people around the world who are suffering from eye conditions since it was used by medical practitioners a few years back. This helped them live better quality of life due to improved visual acuity. This breakthrough is one perfect example of how advances in technology could help people with medical or visual conditions live a healthier and better life.
LASIK surgery has been the choice of many people to correct refractive errors in vision. Its tried and tested method and ongoing developments help patients build confidence that the surgery on one of the body’s most important organs would be successful. Let us take a look at what happens during LASIK surgery and how it differs from other laser eye surgeries.
How It Works
LASIK or Laser-Assisted in situ Keratomileusis is a type of refractive surgery that uses laser to reshape the cornea of the eye. Reshaping the cornea gives the patient with impaired vision better image clarity. The way the cornea is shaped depends on the specific eye condition that the patient is suffering from. The result of the operation should be comparable to that of using corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses but with permanent effect.
Nearsighted people need the cornea to be shaped flatter to allow the light waves that enters the eye reach focus exactly at the retina so they could see distant images clearer. Farsighted people on the other hand needs a rounder cornea to achieve normal sight.
Some people might experience blurry vision when viewing either distant or close objects. This usually happens when the cornea is irregularly shaped which causes the image not to reach focus on the retina. This condition is called astigmatism. Although it has several types, most are easily corrected through laser surgery by making the shape of the cornea more even.
The cornea is covered with a thin membrane that provides natural nourishment to the eye. Since LASER eye surgery involves reshaping only the cornea, the membrane is removed or placed away from the laser ‘s treatment zone. LASIK surgery involves keeping the membrane by creating a flap instead of removing it completely so it can be placed back after the procedure, thereby promoting faster healing compared to the other types of refractive eye operations.
What Happens During the Procedure
The surgical equipment is computer-aided to ensure precision. A soft suction ring is applied to the eye to hold the eye in place. The computer system keeps track of the position of the eye with utmost accuracy that could go as much as 4000 times per second. In the event that the eye is moved, the laser is redirected to the treatment zone automatically.
After the eye is positioned, alcohol is applied to the epithelial membrane to weaken the cells. A flap is then made and folded away from the treatment zone. Earlier versions of LASIK equipment use microkeratome or mechanical blade to create the flap, however, newer models use femtosecond laser to create the flap.
After the flap is folded, an excimer laser is used to reshape the cornea. The laser is applied to predetermined treatment zone to achieve the ideal shape. The laser causes small layer of the tissue to evaporate without burning with heat.
Once reshaping is completed, the flap is placed back to serve as a natural bandage. The surgeon ensures that the flap is correctly placed and has no debris or air bubbles when placed.
The process is performed on one eye at a time and would take only a few minutes on each eye. The surgery is an out patient procedure and the patient is left to take care of the eyes as it undergoes natural healing process.
A number of technologies are used to achieve precise results of a safe operation. Over the years, several changes were made in the surgical process as well as equipment used. One major difference is the use of laser to create the flap instead of small mechanical blade. This does not signify that microkeratome would be permanently replaced by laser through as there are advantages and disadvantages in using laser to create the flap.
Excimer lasers used to reshape the cornea is a development in laser technology used in the field of medicine. The technology involves the use of a halide molecule which, under appropriate condition of electrical simulation and high pressure, emits laser light. The properties of this type of laser is ideal for eye surgery because the laser can ablate but a thin piece of tissue with pinpoint accuracy without affecting the surrounding tissues making it possible to reshape the cornea with utmost precision.
Further developments have brought about different types of LASIK surgery, each offering new possibilities and new level of safety and precision. Several techniques are being tested to achieve the best result of the operation as much as possible.
The idea of Thin Flap LASIK is already in its testing stage to hopefully address and minimize risks that appears after a surgery which are usually due to improperly cut or shaped flap.
Developments are also ongoing regarding the use of all-femtosecond correction that uses femtosecod laser during the operation – from creating the flap to the ablation process.
Another exciting development is the wavefront-guided PRK. This technique would allow surgeons to do surgical operation on rather complicated cases of astigmatism with the aid of equipment with wavefront sensors.
The field of medicine has drastically changed over the past years thanks to scientific research and technological developments. These changes have cause unprecedented improvements in out lives and health as well. And with ongoing effects to improve if not perfect the technology, we can expect more. However, these technologies could not stand alone and still needs expertise to achieve optimal effect and result. So no matter what type of laser eye surgery of what technology one wishes to take advantage of, there is no denying that the surgeon’s skill and experience still remains a top priority.