So in terms of labs, I think third years get the best ones. We have a new course offered at ICO: Ophthalmic Lasers. Dr. Chaglasian organized an awesome lab with the help of the doctors at TLC Laser Eye Centers to give us first-hand experience working with lasers. We had several different stations set up and got to learn the components of each different type of laser refractive eye surgery.
At the first station, we were each given our own pig-eye-in-a-cup to work on, and had the opportunity to remove the epithelium, simulating how we’d prepare it for laser eye surgery. It was at this station that I saw a bag of real eyeballs for the first time in my life. Most people might feel a little squeamish about it, but for me, as an eye nerd, it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen (besides lasers, of course).
My pig eye in a cup
Tools we used to remove epithelium
Our tools in action under a microscope
At the second station, we took turns firing the laser. The smoke coming from the pig’s eye didn’t show up very well on camera, but if you look closely, there’s a faint little “fog” above the eyeball on the tripod. The joystick control was almost exactly like that of arcade video games, and there’s a foot pedal that delivers the laser when stepped on.
Giving the pig eye laser refractive surgery
Trying to fire a laser
The next station was the CustomVue Wavefront scan, which showed us the shape of our cornea and our approximate refractive error, and gave us an idea of how much of our blurry vision is due to our pupil size. Since each eye is unique, this scan helps doctors customize laser treatment to ensure the best outcome after surgery.
My wavefront scan
Unfortunately, due to the cold weather, the last laser–used to create a flap in the cornea–wasn’t able to function. However, we still got some great instructional videos on the entire process. Overall, it was a fun and informative experience, and I hope I get the chance work to with lasers again someday.
Editor’s note: Optometrists do not have the ability to perform laser surgery in Illinois at the moment. However, optometrists are able to do so in several other states. This course is offered at ICO in order to prepare students for practice in all 50 states.