The first human laser eye surgery was performed in 1989. Since then, laser eye surgery technology has rapidly evolved and continues to develop further. Today, laser eye surgery is the most frequently performed elective surgery in North America, and the latest technology in laser eye surgery promises even more advances in the years to come.
FDA Approval and Laser Eye Surgery Technology
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of laser eye surgery technology is an important factor when considering the procedure. In order to gain FDA approval in the United States, an individual or company trying to sell a medical device must first prove that it is reasonably safe and effective for a particular use.
With regard to laser eye surgery technology, the FDA tests all lasers proposed for use in LASIK surgery.
After approval, the FDA also monitors the continued safety and efficiency of medical devices, including the latest technology in laser eye surgery. Since 1999, the FDA has approved approximately three dozen laser technologies used for LASIK.
Laser Eye Surgery Technology – Excimer Lasers
Excimer lasers are a fundamental element of laser eye surgery technology. Invented in 1970, an excimer laser produces a cool beam of ultraviolet light that penetrates a microscopic amount of the cornea and can precisely remove tissue without burning, cutting or affecting the surrounding tissue. The high-energy pulses of ultraviolet light remove miniscule pieces of tissue while reshaping the cornea and correcting vision errors.
When it was introduced as the latest technology in laser eye surgery, the excimer laser revolutionized the field and resulted in greater safety and success in surgical procedures. Modern-day excimer lasers are computer controlled to correct the specific vision error of each patient. Most excimer lasers are equipped with automated eye-tracking systems that monitor the patient’s eye movement to ensure that the ultraviolet light beam remains “on target” during the procedure.
Laser Eye Surgery Technology – Wavefront LASIK
One of the latest FDA-approached technologies in laser eye surgery is wavefront LASIK, also sometimes referred to as custom LASIK surgery. Custom LASIK is able to personalize treatment to an individual’s ideal vision. The greatest advantage of this laser eye surgery technology lies in the area of quality of vision, as it generally offers a greater chance of achieving 20/20 or better vision without glasses or contact lenses, along with other benefits.
Not all patients are best served by wavefront LASIK, so be sure to consult with your surgeon to learn if this form of laser eye surgery technology is right for you before making a decision. Also make sure to ensure that the technology being used is FDA approved.
A number of companies, including Alcon Laboratories, VISX and Wavelight AG, have developed FDA-approved wavefront laser eye surgery technology. Alcon’s WaveLight® refractive technology is among the most advanced laser systems used by LASIK physicians and offers a number of customization options for individualized treatment.