Technology and Innovation
In January 2008 Bella Roberts entered Focus as the UK’s first Z-LASIK patient. The mother of three was classed as clinically blind without glasses and had long dreamt of having laser eye surgery but had been put off by the traditional methods used. Bella was a little nervous about being the UK’s first Z-LASIK patient but she entered the laser suite and within twenty minutes after treatment her vision was better than 20-20. Whilst this was a life changing moment for Bella Roberts and her family it was also a huge turning point for Focus and the industry as a whole.
Laser eye surgery was now not only safe, painless and quick but with the advent of Z-LASIK it had now become so accurate that the results would set a new era in refractive surgery.
The early years of eye surgery
As we previously mentioned refractive surgery has been around for many years and even in the early stages results were impressive. PRK and LASEK were two of the earlier methods of correcting vision. PRK involves removing the epithelium and treating the outermost layer below this with a laser. LASEK is similar but the epithelium is not removed but an alcoholic solution is used to cause the epithelium cells to weaken, allowing the surgeon to fold the epithelial layer out of the laser treatment field and fold it back after the cornea has been reshaped by the laser to correct the vision.
LASIK however involves the idea of creating a flap, folding this back, correcting the vision with a laser and then folding the flap back to heal. Previously the only way to create a flap was to use a microkeratome which housed a blade. For many this was one of the major obstacles to having laser eye surgery although millions of people have had their vision corrected using this procedure.
Whilst millions of people were happy worldwide with their new vision there were many that still did not want to proceed with laser eye surgery because of the association with ‘cutting’ or a blade. Laser technology moved forward dramatically in 2000 when the use of a femtosecond laser (The term describes the amount of pulses emitted – a femtosecond is quite literally one billionth of one millionth of a second. For context, a femtosecond is to a second, what a second is to about 32 million years) was used to replace the microkeratome in flap creation.
For the first time refractive surgery had become completely blade-free.
The use of an extremely accurate laser now meant that flap creation was safer, faster and more accurate leading to improved healing and vision results. It also allowed clinics to offer a new standard in laser eye surgery.
Customised Treatment – Wavefront
Wavefront technology was pioneered in the fields of physics and to aid in reducing ‘aberrations’ or imperfections with the complex optical systems of telescopes. Similarly, we use the ultra-precise Tscherning wavefront aberrometer to provide us with an accurate assessment of the optical imperfections throughout the optical system of the human eye. In short Wavefront offers customised treatment based on the ‘shape’ of your cornea leading to superior vision results. Wavefront is standard on all treatments at Focus.
At Focus one hundred percent of our patients achieve 20-20 vision with Z-LASIK. It may seem impossible to improve on these statistics but technology continues to improve and offer even better results. There are areas in refractive surgery such as presbyopia (The condition where the eye exhibits a progessively diminished ability to focus on near objects with age – it affects all of us at some point in our lives) where technological advance can still play a big role.
New studies and techniques such as Acufocus, Flexivue and Intracor all offer different solutions to the above problem but they are still in their infancy. Our medical director Mr David Allamby (who is one of the few Ophthalmic Surgeons pioneering treatment for presbyopia) is regularly consulted and featured in the media on these treatments and at Focus we ensure that any new treatments are rigorously tested and approved before being implemented in our clinic.