History of LASIK – A Russian Boy Who Fell and Cracked His Eyeglasses

LASIK, or Laser Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis, is an increasingly popular approach to vision restoration. You probably know that the procedure is safe and effective, but have you heard how LASIK got its start?

The procedure that LASIK is built on, called keratotomy, has a long history. It involves making a series of tiny incisions in the patient’s cornea. When these incisions heal, the patient enjoys better vision than they had before. Records of keratotomy date back to the 1800’s, and by the 1930’s, European and Asian doctors were subjecting the procedure to formal tests in their laboratories.

Then, one little boy’s unfortunate accident became the starting point for a surgical revolution. The setting was Russia in the 1970’s. Ophthalmologist Dr. Fyodorov was tending to a patient, a young boy who had fallen and cracked his eyeglasses. Dr. Fyodorov expected to see serious eye trauma resulting from the accident. Instead, he was startled to find that, instead of harming the child’s vision, the accident actually improved it! When the glass from the broken lens cut into the boy’s cornea, it reshaped the tissue just enough to result in improved vision. Dr. Fyodorov recorded his findings, and began carrying out the world’s first radial keratotomies.

An American doctor, Leo Bores, observed the radial keratotomies and brought his newfound knowledge back to the United States. Radial keratotomy was highly successful, but there was still room for improvement.

In 1978, the invention of the Excimer laser changed vision correction surgery forever. The laser allowed surgeons a great degree of control, and was first applied to corneal tissue by Dr. Steven Trokel. This new procedure, called LASIK, went public in 1987. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Today, millions of Americans have elected to have LASIK surgery. Patients enjoy immediate benefits, and long-term studies have shown that the benefits are permanent. It’s not unusual to come away from LASIK with vision of 20/40, or even 20/20. If your eyesight could be better, talk to your eye doctor to find out if LASIK is right for you.