Excimer laser technology has played a fundamental role in catapulting LASIK to the prominent position it now occupies in the world of vision correction. Prior to the development of the laser, surgeons corrected refractive errors by reshaping the cornea with traditional surgical tools like microkeratomes (blades) and cryolathes. But these procedures had frequent complications and inconsistent outcomes.
Thanks to the advent of the excimer laser, LASIK is now one of the safest and most popular surgical procedures performed around the world. The technology continues to advance, making laser eye surgery more precise, predictable and effective than ever.
Evolution of Excimer Laser Technology
The excimer laser has evolved considerably since it was first introduced in the 1970s to etch silicone computer chips. In the 1980s, scientists began using the excimer laser on biological materials. Because it makes clean, precise cuts and can remove exceptionally fine layers of surface material with virtually no heating or change to the remainder of the material left intact, this laser is a great match for delicate surgeries like LASIK eye surgery.
The excimer laser was patented for vision correction in 1983, and after years of research and development, the FDA subsequently approved the excimer laser in the US for photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) and then for LASIK in 1995.
How Does an Excimer Laser Work in LASIK Surgery?
The laser emits a cool beam of UV light at a specific wavelength to “ablate” or remove corneal tissue without causing damage to surrounding tissue. The laser can remove microscopic amounts of tissue at a time (e.g., as little as .25 microns of tissue; one micron is a thousandth of a millimeter). To understand this feat, the laser is thus capable of dividing a grain of sand into 1,000 pieces!
The laser works to reshapes or smooth the cornea so that light rays entering the eye can properly focus on the retina. The amount of tissue removed and the location of tissue that is removed vary by patient, as everyone’s eye anatomy is unique.
Notably, excimer lasers are controlled by computer software that gathers detailed information about each patient’s eye measurements and prescription.
What Sets Alcon Wavelight EX500 Apart from the Rest?
The FDA has approved several excimer lasers for use in vision correction surgery. Each of these lasers meets criteria for safety and effectiveness. Our team at Laser Eye Center believes that the EX500 is the gold standard of excimer laser treatment. Here’s why:
Genesis: Alcon is the only technology company that started with the eye as the basis for R&D development, thereby building a technology platform around it. In contrast, other players simply repurposed a technology that was built for the flat structure of semi-conductor chips as opposed to the round anatomy of the eye.
Customization: The EX500 was the first excimer laser to offer wavefront technology, which allows our surgeons to customize treatment to the cornea’s unique characteristics and aberrations (imperfections). This helps us treat more complex aberrations and deliver better overall outcomes.
Built for Speed: The EX500 emits 500 laser pulses per second for an extremely quick treatment. The benefit is decreased potential for patient fatigue syndrome, with the procedure being completed in seconds. In addition, the speed of the laser also significantly reduces the risk of complications such as dry eye.
Enhanced Precision: Alcon’s Perfect Pulse technology ensures each laser beam is calibrated to safely and precisely sculpt the cornea to help you achieve your best visual outcome — and best of all, free of any potential for glare, halos or other visual symptoms!
Eye-tracking System: The automated eye-tracking system monitors the movement of the eye so the laser beam stays on target during the treatment to deliver the highest levels of safety!
Wide Range of Treatment: With the EX500, we can treat the highest levels of nearsightedness, farsightedness AND astigmatism. In short, we are able to help patients who were previously told they did not qualify for LASIK.