Ultraprecise medical applications with ultrafast lasers: corneal surgery with femtosecond lasers
We investigated refractive corneal surgery in vivo and in vitro by intrastromal photodisruption using a compact ultrafast femtosecond laser system. Ultrashort-pulsed lasers operating in the femtosecond time regime are associated with significantly smaller and deterministic threshold energies for photodisruption, as well as reduced shock waves and smaller cavitation bubbles than the nanosecond or picosecond lasers. Our reliable all-solid-state laser system was specifically designed for real world medical applications. By scanning the 5 micron focus spot of the laser below the corneal surface, the overlapping small ablation volumes of single pulses resulted in contiguous tissue cutting and vaporization. Pulse energies were typically in the order of a few microjoules. Combination of different scanning patterns enabled us to perform corneal flap cutting, femtosecond-LASIK, and femtosecond intrastromal keratectomy in porcine, rabbit, and primate eyes. The cuts proved to be highly precise and possessed superior dissection and surface quality. Preliminary studies show consistent refractive changes in the in vivo studies. We conclude that the technology is capable to perform a variety of corneal refractive procedures at high precision, offering advantages over current mechanical and laser devices and enabling entirely new approaches for refractive surgery.
This paper was published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 3564