Implantable miniature telescope corrects central vision loss

The implantable miniature telescope is smaller than a pea and designed to be implanted behind the retina.
The implantable miniature telescope is smaller than a pea and designed to be implanted behind the retina. Provided photo

At least one South Carolina patient has benefited from a new high-tech surgical procedure that involves putting an implantable miniature telescope into the eye. The procedure helps individuals who suffer from severe central vision loss.

Age-related macular degeneration is a disease of the retina that can result in vision loss in the area of the eye responsible for straight-ahead vision. It is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and legal blindness in people 60 and older.

The FDA-approved miniature telescope, developed by Dr. Isaac Lipshitz, is smaller than a pea and designed to be implanted in one eye behind the retina. The telescope is housed in a prosthetic device and enlarges images in front of the eye approximately 2.2- 2.7 times their normal size (depending on the model used). The magnification allows central images to be projected onto healthy areas of the retina where vision loss has occurred.

Charlotte ophthalmologist Casey Mathys is the only doctor in the area who has performed the implant procedure, according to an industry publicist.

“The early and intermediate stages of AMD (age-related macular degeneration) usually start without symptoms, and only a comprehensive, dilated eye exam can detect AMD,” Mathys said. “Other contributing factors include family history and smoking, but a diet high in antioxidants can decrease AMD.”

A recent Wakefield Research study shows 74 percent of Americans do not know about the prevalence of age-related macular degeneration, which affects up to 15 million Americans.

Mathys told the Charlotte Business Journal last year he hoped to perform up to a dozen surgeries using the implantable mini telescope.

“Patients who lose central vision may feel like their independence is impacted if they need to ask for help signing checks, making selections at the grocery store or even recognizing grandchildren,” Mathys said. “As a result, adults with AMD are at higher risk for depression as their vision diminishes, which is why it’s important to develop an individualized management plan that incorporates a range of treatment and care-giving strategies.”

In 1 out of 20 cases after surgery has started, surgeons have been unable to implant the telescope. In those instances, a difference type of ocular lens is implanted instead.

After the procedure there is an extended healing period that may range from one to two months. Patients also are required to attend training sessions with low-vision specialists to learn how to properly understand the functional goals of the telescope.

To qualify

Candidates must meet the following criteria before surgery:

▪ Age-related macular degeneration in both eyes

▪ At least 75 years of age

▪ Distant vision is no better than 20/160 but no worse than 20/800

▪ Cataracts

▪ Improvement shown on an eye test chart using an external telescope

▪ Agree to training before and after procedure with a low-vision specialist

▪ Informed of risks and benefits