How the Humble Turkey Started LASIK Surgery

Posted By on Nov 15, 2018 in LASIK Surgery | 0 comments

How the Humble Turkey Started LASIK Surgery

Globally LASIK has been a standard procedure for at least 20 years.  Deemed popular and reliable in most countries it has enjoyed rapid growth as word of mouth has spread about the success of the procedure. Its more than 90% success rate on patients chose carefully remains impressive by any standards. As the calendar moves into the holidays few know that the humble turkey help created the procedure.

Early origins

Experimentation with laser surgery started as early as 1981. Researcher Rangaswamy Srinivasan at IBM’s Watson Research Center in New York had brought in leftover turkey from his Thanksgiving Day dinner to work. The team had in the weeks earlier discussions on finding a suitable animal tissue to try out the new argon fluoride excimer laser on. The hope of the team became that the ultraviolet light laser with short pulses could make a clean cut in a tissue without causing any damage to the surrounding cells. If successful, the team could propose it as a surgical tool. The discussions ranged from the delicate wings of a butterfly to raw hamburger. Before the Thanksgiving holidays, no one could think of a suitable living substance to test the excimer laser on.

One researcher remained especially preoccupied with the concept. While eating his Thanksgiving turkey Srinivasan noticed the smooth texture surface of the meat. He realized it met the parameters needed for the experiment with the excimer laser. He gathered a set of turkey pieces to use. On November 27th returning to work, Srinivasan took the turkey pieces and fired for ten nanoseconds pulses of light with the excimer laser. Observations under a microscope showed the incision remained clean. It leads to many more experiments that included the turkey’s cartilage. Eventually, the operations moved to human tissue. The result became a paper in Laser Focus in 1983. Once ophthalmologists read the article the foundation of LASIK and PRK became laid.


The FDA in the USA approved the procedure of PRK first after a three-year trial in 1995. As doctors used the technology they further innovated and created the LASIK we know today. Combining the excimer laser technology and a microkeratome made the surgery highly effective with relatively short healing times. Now treatment options have become customizable making patient satisfaction high. Despite the advances in the tools, the most important piece of the whole process remains the doctor and staff performing it. A careful consultation and understanding of that patients needs medically and matching that to the procedures gives the high success rate. The original team that developed the technology also continued making improvements to the surgery. In 2013 the team of Srinivasan, Blum, and Wynne were given the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.


Houston Lasik has continued the high standards that the original team of researchers developed. Not only performing laser eye surgery on patients, but they also performed LASIK surgery on pilots and Navy Seals. Eating turkey dinner on Thanksgiving remains one of life’s little pleasures. Knowing how it helped so many makes it that much more delicious.


Houston Lasik leads in providing premium LASIK technologies to Houston, Sugar Land, and the surrounding region. The center’s award-winning medical director introduced revolutionary technologies such as iLASIK to the region. This technology is used by NASA astronauts, Navy SEALS, and Air Force fighter pilots. At Houston Lasik, you can now receive the same treatment. For more information, please call (281) 240-0478.