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Laser scalpel advances eye surgery

17 Jun 2002

US scientists are revolutionizing eye surgery with femtosecond lasers.

A team of researchers from the National Science Foundation for Ultrafast Optical Science at Michigan University, US, has developed a laser "scalpel" that they hope will advance laser in-situ keratomileusis or LASIK vision-correction surgery (Opthalmology Clinics of North America June 2001).

In traditional LASIK surgery, surgeons use a mechanical "microkeratome" blade to cut a flap in the cornea before "sculpting" the tissue underneath with an excimer laser. However, instead of cutting cornea with a mechanical blade, surgeons can now use a more accurate femtosecond laser.

"[These] lasers will deliver extremely short pulses of light that can cut within the delicate structure of the eye, such as the cornea, while avoiding damage to overlying and adjacent tissue," said Ron Kurtz, assistant professor of opthalmology at Michigan University's Kellogg Eye Center.

Since starting their research the scientists have set up a company called IntraLase, which develops and markets their new generation of lasers for eye surgery. Expecting their laser to be widely available across the US within a year, the researchers hope to extend their technique to other eye-related operations, such as cornea transplants and glaucoma treatment.

"We have barely begun to explore the myriad of uses that the femtosecond laser offers in the clinical management of glaucoma," said the Kellogg Eye Center's director Paul Lichter.

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