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LASIK Lasers – LADARVision vs ActiveTrak – Does It Matter?

LASIK Lasers – LADARVision vs ActiveTrak – Does It Matter?

LASIK is a relatively new (and extremely successful) type of refractive surgery (less than 2 decades old), for which technological advances have developed almost at the same pace as the surgery’s popularity. Surgeons who continually master new forms of LASIK technology will find an ever-increasing number of eager patients, pursuing the best possible surgical outcome.

Excimer lasers make this eye surgery possible, because they use a light beam that puts off no heat. This removes any chance of damaging the tissue of your eye during the procedure. The excimer laser is not the tool used to cut a flap in the cornea and lift it off the eye (this is done either by a blade known as a “microkeratome” or by a different type of laser, known as an “IntraLase (R)”). Excimer lasers reshape the deeper layers of the cornea, returning them to their original smooth condition, and thus returning your vision to as perfect (or even more perfect) than it was when you were a child.

LADARVisionĀ® and VISX ActiveTrak(TM) represent two of the most popular types of excimer lasers. Both are breakthroughs in the tracking mechanisms used in LASIK eye surgery, and, as with most things, each has its pluses and minuses.


LADARVision’s tracking technology was originally developed in a joint effort between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Department of Defense’s Ballistic Missile Defense Office for docking satellites and spacecraft. It uses a small-spot beam of less than 1 mm in width (smaller than the width of a human hair), which a computer moves rapidly around your cornea in a pattern of tiny, non-sequential, overlapping spots.

LADARVision 4000 measures the position of your eye 4,000 times per second and aligns its laser beam with this positioning. The built-in tracker automatically follows any eye movements and corrects for any movements of the eye during the procedure. This alleviates the worries associated with eye movement during surgery because the laser adjusts and realigns itself between each pulse, guiding the placement of the beam with pinpoint accuracy.

Some specialists feel that video-based tracking systems (such as those used by ActiveTrak) have not proven that they have the speed required to track sporadic, jerky, involuntary eye movements, while LADARVision (which has been available for longer) clearly has.

VISX ActiveTrak

The VISX ActiveTrak is unique in that it combines the capabilities of both a broadbeam and a scanning laser. A broad beam can perform the first stage of reshaping the surface of your eye, while the scanning beam conducts the more detailed work required to smooth and polish your newly shaped cornea. Having this combination of capabilities (known as “Variable Spot Scanning”) greatly increases the (already rapid) speed with which refractive laser surgeries can be conducted. ActiveTrak’s system uses infrared video on the laser to track your smallest eye movements during surgery.

Many LASIK specialists prefer the VISX ActiveTrak, in part because of its ability to track the movement of your eyes in three dimensions (not only in the side-to-side and up-and-down directions of LADARVision, but also following the motion caused by your breathing, as it moves your body slightly in a vertical direction). Additionally, surgeries conducted with ActiveTrak are quicker than those conducted with LADARVision, and don’t require the pupil dilation the other laser requires.


Both the LADARVision and ActiveTrak excimer lasers are tremendous technologies, offering superb options in LASIK eye surgery. Talk to any surgeons with whom you consult, about which excimer laser they prefer and why.