Refractive eye surgery refers to any eye surgery which changes the refraction of the eye. You can think of refractive surgery as any procedure which improves your vision without lenses.
While most refractive eye surgery involves surgery on the cornea, cataract surgery can also be considered a type of refractive eye surgery as the power of your intraocular lens can be customized to your refraction.
The First Refractive Surgeon – 1948
Father Waclaw Szuniewicz, a Polish missionary and ophthalmologist, pioneered the first techniques to “cure” astigmatism by changing the curvature of the cornea.
His notable contributions on the surgical treatment of corneal astigmatism were made while at Yale, between 1949 and 1952, though his original ideas were formed while serving as a missionary and doctor in China.
Doctor Jose Barraquer -1964
Considered to be the father of modern refractive surgery, Dr. Jose Ignacio Barraquer, spent his life’s work developing techniques, instruments and surgical tools leading to the advancement of corneal transplants, refractive corneal and lens surgery.
He is most famous for his work on keratomileusis and keratophakia, published in 1964 – landmark work leading to the concepts of PRK and LASIK. He is the inventor of the microkeratome.
Radial Keratotomy – 1973
Svyatoslov Fyodorov, a Russian ophthalmologist, noticed that the vision of a young near-sighted (myopic) boy actually improved after sustaining corneal injuries from glass fragments. He recognized that the radial cuts in the cornea from the glass flattened the cornea.
Though others had already attempted refractive surgery by making cuts to the cornea from inside the eye, Fyodorov perfected the external technique of radial keratotomy, or simply RK.
The excimer laser was invented for industrial use in manufacturing microelectric chips. The laser was invented c. 1970 with several modifications over the next 10 years until the first use on human tissue.
The first laser vision correction procedure, PRK (photorefractive keratectomy) was performed by a team led by Dr. Steven Trokel. This was the birth of laser vision correction. PRK was FDA approved in 1995.
First LASIK – 1991
Drs. Slade and Brint were the first to perform LASIK in the United States. Similar to PRK (photorefractive keratectomy), the LASIK procedure uses the excimer laser to reshape the cornea. Unlike PRK, LASIK surgeons create a corneal flap prior to the excimer reshaping. LASIK was FDA approved in 1996 and is the most popular type of laser vision correction performed in the U.S.