Getting to understand the excimer laser used in lasik eye surgery

Getting to understand the excimer laser that is used in lasik eye surgery is a good step into understanding the lasik procedure. Lasik is a procedure first introduced in 1998. It is designed to help correct vision so that a person does not have to rely on eyeglasses or contacts.. The word lasik stands for laser assisted in Situ Keratomileusis. The laser used is called an excimer laser.

During lasik eye surgery the object is to reshape the cornea. The cornea is the clear lens of the eye. It is responsible for taking in images and sending them to the retina where they then go on to the brain then we can see. In someone who has bad vision the cornea is warped so that the images sent to the retina are blurry. To correct this during lasik eye surgery first a flap is cut in the cornea and then the excimer laser is used to reshape the inner layer of the cornea.

The laser is programmed by the surgeon or a technician to know exactly how deep to cut the cornea and how much of it to reshape. The laser vaporizes the areas of the cornea that need fixed through a series of pulses. The excimer laser is so precise that it can remove 0.25 microns of tissue in one pulse. To put it into simple terms, that means it can cut a 1/200th of a human hair in 12 billionths of a second. The bottom line is that it is fast and accurate. This laser is what is called a cold laser. This means it does not generate heat which allows it to remove only the intended tissue without harming any of the nearby tissue.

The excimer laser was developed by IBM and used for eye surgeries since 1987. It was FDA approved in 1995. Shortly thereafter in 1998 it was used for lasik procedures. Before it was used for lasik it was used for another eye procedure called PRK that was an earlier form of eye correction surgery. The laser is triggered by a computer and produces ultraviolet light. Its ability to remove corneal tissue is because the ultraviolet light is too much for the corneal tissue to handle and it will then break down. The excimer laser also uses reactive gases that are mixed with inert gases to accomplish it’s job.

Surgeons and Technicians need to be trained to use the excimer laser. There are many lasik clinics have a specially trained technician that just handles the excimer laser machine. The reason for this is that it is imperative the computer controls are programmed exactly. This is so that the cornea is not cut too deep or too much tissue is removed resulting in complications and an unsuccessful procedure.

It is hard to understand or review all the exact details of how the excimer laser works. This is because of the very complicated process of both the procedure and also the excimer laser, but knowing the basics can help someone who is looking into lasik surgery understands better what will actually go on during their surgery.

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