Have you ever wondered how LASIK was invented?

The story of the invention of LASIK is a very interesting one. It is a fairly recent practice that exploded into popularity and has quickly become one of the safest surgeries in the world with improved technology coming out all of the time. Perhaps the most interesting part of the history is the fact that our modern idea of what LASIK is can be traced back to an accident.

Radial Keratotomy

In the 1930s, a practice that is known as “radial keratotomy” made its debut at the hands of a Japanese ophthalmologist named Tsutomu Sato. While he was unsuccessful in his work, he laid the groundwork for what was to become a miracle discovery.

It wasn’t until 1974 that a Russian doctor named Dr. Svyatoslav Fyodorov had a unique patient, a boy that had been in a bicycle accident. The reason he was seeing Fyodorov was that he had gotten shards of glass in his eye from the accident. Fyodorov removed the glass from the boy’s eye. To do this, he cut a radial pattern in the boy’s cornea.

When the boy healed from the surgery, something shocking happened— the boy’s vision was much better than it had been before the glass had pierced his eye. Radial keratotomy became a mainstream solution for vision problems, though it was a fairly risky procedure as the skill of the surgeon was the deciding factor of whether or not it would be successful. Soon, however, this problem would be solved.

From Blades to Lasers

Within the same decade that radial keratotomy was being developed, a new piece of technology was created. An excimer laser is a sophisticated tool that can perform delicate operations and was perfect for scientist Stephen L. Trokel of Columbia University to research. He used the lasers on cadavers at first, practicing corneal reshaping, but eventually progressed to live animals. It wasn’t until 1988 that Marguerite McDonald performed the first laser eye surgery on a living human subject. The subject’s eye was to be removed anyway due to cancerous growth, so McDonald had the chance to perform what is now known as photorefractive keratectomy, or PRK.

PRK was officially approved in Canada in 1991, and four years later it was approved in the U.S. However, before PRK was approved by either countries, two eye doctors in Europe were already improving on the concept of PRK.


Dr. Ioannis Pillakaris and Dr. Lucio Burrato took PRK’s design and made it easier to heal from. In PRK, a hole is cut in the surface of the top layer of the cornea so that the underlying tissue can be worked on. The procedure that the two doctors developed saved the top layer by cutting it like a hinged flap that could be replaced, significantly reducing recovery. This method would eventually become LASIK.


We have come a long way since the 1930s. Today, doctors no longer have to rely on just a patient’s prescription to know how the cornea needs to be reshaped. Powerful computers can scan our eyes and recreate nearly perfect topographical maps. Custom LASIK is the new standard for LASIK. What will come next?

Over many decades, LASIK has helped countless people gain amazing eyesight and improved their lives immeasurably. If you are ready to learn how to take the first step, schedule a consultation with Atlantic Laser Center!