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Laser surgery techniques for refractive vision correction were well established, both scientifically and clinically, by the mid-80s. The basic principle behind all the methods is using a laser to model the outer corneal layer so that the focal point of the bundled incidental light is on the surface of the retina itself and not in front of or behind it.
The original treatment methods, PRK and LASEK, manually removed the outer protective layer (epithelium) of the cornea before the laser surgery. The consequences often included post-operative pain and very slow recovery of visual acuity. As a consequence, laser surgery techniques which involved preparing a corneal flap (LASIK and Femto-LASIK) were then developed. Here, a mechanical cutting tool (microkeratome) or a femtosecond laser is used to create a thin flap of cornea which is just 120 micrometers thick. Almost a complete circle (270°) is cut in the upper layers of the cornea. The flap is then folded back like the cover of a book. Subsequently, the exposed corneal tissue is then ablated using an excimer laser in a separate stage of treatment. The greater the level of vision defect, the more tissue needs to be removed. In the final stage of treatment, the corneal flap is then folded back into its original position.
It then adheres in the original place over the coming weeks and months. The disadvantage is that the flap can shift or even tear off (flap displacement) as the result of rubbing or other physical contact after the operation.
The SMILE principle: The high-precision VisuMax® femtosecond laser creates a small lens (lenticule) inside the intact cornea, the volume and form of which are determined by the degree of vision defect to be corrected. This lenticule is then removed in a minimally invasive procedure from the interior of the cornea through a small access measuring just a few millimetres. In contrast to earlier techniques, it is no longer necessary to fold back the cornea. There is no flap incision, the area of the incision is reduced to a minimum and the outer corneal layers remain more or less intact. All of which is made possible by a sensitive, precise and convenient treatment method.
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Precise and sensitive treatment “VisuMax femtosecond laser”
The specially developed laser system used for the SMILE procedure is the Carl Zeiss VisuMax® femtosecond laser. In Femto-LASIK surgery it has already impressed patients and physicians alike with its sophisticated technology, its precision and its reliability. SMILE now permits accuracy down to nearest micrometer precision in the preparation of the lenticule within the intact cornea.
The high-precision femtosecond laser provides targeted correction of the vision defect while leaving the surrounding corneal tissue virtually unaffected.
A contact glass specially designed to match the individual anatomy of the cornea permits customized treatment in which the corneal tissue does not need to be unnecessarily compressed. This helps avoid temporary loss of vision caused by excessive intraocular pressure.
An ergonomically designed and functionally versatile patient supporting system provides extra comfort and relaxation during treatment. The position of the patient is continuously monitored during the laser procedure and automatically adjusted and corrected, if necessary.
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