PRK | Excimer Lasers For Photorefractive Keratotomy

A Russian called Svyatoslav Fyodorov developed radial keratotomy (RK) and perfected his technique using highly polished diamond blades. Around the same time many scientists and institutions worked on the initial development of a family of gas lasers known as the excited dimer which eventually got shortened to the word 'excimer'. The 'excited' part comes from the basis of the science which is that component atoms of a diatomic molecule are bound in the excited state and not in the ground state. These excimers had practical applications in the fields of surface physics and photochemistry. The word laser is an acronym for light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation.

The excimers were structurally fairly simple and reliable devices capable of producing narrow beams of light that could travel over distances without dispersion and that could be focused to give enormous power densities. One practical application was etching on silicone computer chips and in the garment industry they are use to cut fabrics in several thicknesses at a time. Other applications are in satellite tracking, drilling and for entertainment in theatres and concerts.

In the 1980's Professor Theo Seiler of Germany developed photorefractive keratotomy (PRK) and is deemed to be the first surgeon to use an excimer laser on a human eye. An excimer laser uses a cool ultraviolet light beam to precisely ablate very tiny bits of tissue from the surface of the cornea and thereby reshape it. Tissue can be removed with the laser without causing any heat damage to the neighboring tissue. Knowledge of the procedure spread rapidly to other countries.

A New York ophthalmologist called Steven Trokel patented the ultraviolet excimer laser for eye surgery. He performed his first operation using it in 1987. The excimer was given approval for use in ophthalmic refractive surgery in 1996 in the US. It was available in Canada long before that.

You may like to read more about lasers at How lasers work. and click the following link to read about the development of RK by Svyatoslav Fyodorov. Read about Steven Trokel here and at Columbia University. Catch Theo Seiler here.

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