These Lasers aren’t from Science Fiction!

By: Thomas Hunter

The lasers used in Lasik eye surgery represent some of the most astounding creations in technology! The marvels of modern medicine are truly at work with these lasers, which have helped millions of people see better.

Excimer lasers are created for the specific purpose of performing Lasik eye surgery. Not all lasers, however, are created equally. The FDA has approved each type of laser, but, for a select few patients, some lasers are better than others. The greatest difference between most of these lasers is the way they deliver the beam to the eye and track the eye’s movement.

There are two broad categories of lasers, broad beam and scanning. Within the scanning categories, there are two subcategories: slit scanning and spot scanning.

Broad-Beam Lasers

Broad-beam lasers utilize a somewhat large beam diameter, ranging from 6 to 8 millimeters, to cut the cornea. Use of these lasers generally shortens the amount of time necessary to complete the procedure. These lasers also reduce the risk of overcorrection due to pupil movement. The larger diameter of these beams used to make the likelihood of complications more likely, but improved technique and creation of these lasers has virtually eliminated this risk.

Slit Scanning Lasers

Slit scanning lasers use a smaller bean to perform the Lasik procedure. The beam is linked to a rotational device, which has slit holes to enlarge the area to be cut. This accomplished by the beams scanning across the holes. Slit scanning lasers provide a more uniform beam and can create smoother cuts than broad-beam lasers. There is, however, a slightly greater chance of overcorrection with a slit scanning laser.

Spot Scanning Lasers

Spot scanning lasers are also referred to as “flying spot” lasers. These lasers use a small diameter beam of only 0.8 to 2 millimeters. This beam is scanned across the cornea in order to create the area to be cut. Spot scanning lasers have the potential to create the smoothest cut. They are also better capable of producing customized cuts and treating irregular astigmatism.


Many lasers also contain an eye-tracking system. This system links the position of the eye to the laser operation. Lasers without this system make it necessary for the patient to fixate on a distant object and keep the eye perfectly still throughout the procedure.

There are two different types of eye-tracking laser systems. The first is called “open loop.” With open loop tracking, a video based tracking system monitors the pupil’s location. If the eye moves beyond a predetermined setting, it stops the procedure.

The other form of tracking system is the “closed loop.” This system is capable of tracking the eye’s movement, and it makes adjustments according to the movement. Unlike the open loop system, closed loop tracking never stops the procedure completely.

Lasik eye surgery experts agree that some form of eye tracking is needed when using spot scanning lasers and for when performing procedures that take long periods of time. This is because patients simply are not capable of fixating long enough to complete a procedure that takes more time.

IntraLase Lasers

Many surgeons also use IntraLase lasers to perform Lasik eye surgery. The IntraLase laser is capable of creating the “flap” that needs to be cut in order to reach the cornea for shaping. This laser creates a very precise pattern consisting of small, overlapping spaces. It works at an extremely high speed with pulses of one quadrillionth of a second. This allows the tissue to be both targeted and divided at a moleculer level, which removes the needs for the use of heat or impact on the tissue.

The IntraLase laser beam system utilizes special computer software to help guide the beam itself. This software instructs the beam to apply a series of tiny bubbles on the central layer of the cornea. This results in a corneal flap that is at a precise pre-determined depth and diameter. This technology has helped people with thinner corneas successfully undertake the procedure.

Laser beams may sound futuristic or straight from a science fiction book, but this amazing technology is real and here today. Through the variety of lasers available for use in Lasik surgery, eye surgeons are capable of creating a better out-look for millions of people.


This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for educational and informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read. This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease".

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