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Notable figure in eye care – José Ignacio Barraquer

José Ignacio Barraquer Moner – (1916 - 1998)

Dr. José Ignacio Barraquer Moner was a world-renowned Spanish ophthalmologist from a family boasting a long lineage of eye care professionals. Born in Barcelona, Spain, in 1916, José was the first son of Ignacio Barraquer, a prominent ophthalmologist who invented a surgical procedure to remove cataracts using a vacuum device and suction cups. At a young age, José's father, Ignacio, imparted his knowledge of science and optics to his children to continue the family tradition. To further his education, José Ignacio Barraquer enrolled at the University of Barcelona to study medicine and surgery, where he graduated in 1940. 

Under the mentorship of his father, he continued his work in ophthalmology at what is now the Centro de Oftalmología Barraquer in Barcelona. In 1952, he received his honours as a Doctor of Medicine & Surgery from the University of Madrid. While undertaking his doctorate, José Ignacio often travelled to lecture and meet other famous eye care professionals around the globe. 

After a visit to South America in 1953, Barraquer decided it was time to open his own independent clinic and moved his family to Bogotá, Colombia. The Instituto Barraquer de América was founded in 1964, followed afterwards by the Clínica Barraquer de Bogotá in 1968. In Colombia, Dr. Barraquer conducted most of his research and formulated his techniques for refractive surgeries. Like his father and grandfather, Barraquer was a gifted teacher who mentored and taught young colleagues at the institute throughout his later years. 

Dr. José Barraquer was actively involved in teaching and practising optical research up until his passing in Bogotá in 1998.

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José Ignacio Barraquer’s contributions to eye care

Dr. José Barraquer's most significant contribution to eye care was his invention of keratomileusis in 1948. This procedure is achieved by surgically adjusting the curvature of the corneal disc by removing it and reshaping its tissue using specialised tools (many of which were invented by Barraquer) and then reattaching the modified corneal to the patient's eye. This procedure can correct myopia and hyperopia and allow the patient to no longer rely on glasses or contact lenses

Other significant and notable contributions to the world of ophthalmology that José Ignacio Barraquer is responsible for include:

  • Invented refractive keratoplasty – keratomileusis & keratophakia – surgical procedures in which the corneal tissue is frozen and reshaped to correct refractive errors.
  • The letter 'K' in the acronym LASIK comes from his procedure keratomileusis - (Laser-Assisted In Situ Keratomileusis).
  • Over his lifetime, he published over 260 articles on eye issues, refractive surgery, and optical theories.
  • Invented 19 ophthalmological surgical techniques and 45 specialised surgical instruments.
  • The Barraquer Award is an annual prize that honours the ophthalmologist who has made significant contributions to refractive surgery in their career.
  • Won numerous awards for his research and teachings including: First Albrecht von Graefe Award for distinguished contributions to Refractive Surgery by The American Society of Contemporary Ophthalmology and The Most Influential Ophthalmologists of the Twentieth Century by the American Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgery (ASCRS).

Final word

Sometimes referred to as the "Father of Modern Refractive Surgery" – Dr. José Ignacio Barraquer's impact on the optical community and eye care is still felt today. Many of his techniques and surgical inventions are routinely used by ophthalmologists worldwide. The procedure he developed, keratomileusis, laid the foundation for LASIK and other modern ocular procedures that correct common vision errors like myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism for millions of people.

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