"Patients who have laser vision correction for nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism are among our happiest," says Director of Laser Vision Correction Richard E. Braunstein, MD, Miranda Wong Tang Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology and Residency Training Director. Normally, the eye creates a clear image because the cornea bendsor refractsincoming light to focus it precisely on the retina. But if the cornea is too steeply curved, too flat, or irregular in shape, light fails to reach the appropriate point of focus on the retina and vision is blurred or distorted. When this happens, glasses may be prescribed, or ophthalmologists may recommend laser surgery to correct the cornea's shape.
Since the 1960's, Stephen Trokel, MD, Vice-Chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology and Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology, has been fascinated by "the magic" of laser surgery. In the 1980's, he speculated that this technology could be adapted for operating on the human eye to correct its optical power. He was soon proven right, and experiments on animal models in the 1980's rapidly led to developing the first commercial instruments for such use. The first half of the 1990's were then devoted to perfecting technical advances for excimer laser vision correction, because, as Dr. Trokel explains, "we had to prove the concept and demonstrate that use of the laser had a high degree of safety."
Laser vision surgery, as Dr. Trokel believed it would be, is very successful today. Less than one-half of one percent of patients experience side effects or complications. Nevertheless, Dr. Braunstein has been principal investigator for three FDA multicenter clinical trials dedicated to developing improvements for PRK and LASIK technology. With Dr. Trokel, he is working to make the surgery even more precise and to ensure long-term health for eyes that have undergone the procedure. "Every eye is different", says Dr. Braunstein, "so customizing treatment is important."
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