Our last blog we took a look at the IntraLase laser, used for the first step in LASIK treatment. The second step is performed with the Excimer laser, which does the laser vision correction.
Described by patients as a miracle, LASIK is quite an elegant procedure. Taking less than 10 minutes altogether for two eyes, the invention, development, and testing took nine years before LASIK was actually performed on someone. Clinical trials took another seven years, and – after 16 years – the “miracle” was available for patients!
A lot of people aren’t interested in how things work and that’s fine. Even the most curious of our species doesn’t always have time to dig or dive into stuff like that. But the laser is such a cool thing! What do they say about karate, you might never have to karate chop your way through a stack of bricks, but wouldn’t it be nice to know that you could? So I just think if we can get a handle on what a laser is, it might help us understand how the Excimer laser can make people see so much better! And we can probably appreciate that there has been 52 years of proving ground for what we know today (in 2012) as the exceptionally high level of sophistication and safety provided for laser vision correction.
Maybe we can start by saying that a laser beam is an ultra-radiant, sharply and narrowly focused ray of light. The word itself is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Any one of those five words we can pretty much wrap our intellect around. I think the key word, for us to get a grip on the laser, is “Amplification.” Most of us are familiar with the word “amplify” or “amplifier” – it’s what makes music sound louder, right? So how does Light get louder? Well, technically it doesn’t, but that’s the concept behind how laser light is so…bright! Even the kind of laser used in an introductory physics lab class is as bright as the Sun if you look directly at where it’s “shining” from – don’t do this, of course! Good thing the Sun shines so globally with its light rays going in infinity directions in outer space, not the whole thing focused like a laser beam! We all know how too much sun can burn now…
Where the rubber hits the road for laser vision correction, is in the perfectly controlled energy of the Excimer laser, which is so cool – termperature-wise too! – that the technology knows exactly what to do. Scientifically speaking, it may be said that the laser beam focuses along a predetermined pattern of the cornea to achieve the precisely pre-measured and desired outcome – in less than 20 seconds max!, so that there’s an absolute minimum amount of corneal tissue inflammation, which also translates into a minimum amount of patient recovery time after the LASIK procedure.
Wow, I think we’re going to have to stop here with all this cool laser “download” and pick it up next blog in “Part 2.” Reconnect with you then!