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First Retinal Prosthesis Implants Performed in U.S.

Two patients receive ‘bionic eye’ (January 29)

Retina surgeons at the University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center have performed the first surgeries in the U.S. to implant an artificial retina, or “bionic eye,” since the FDA approved the device last year. The procedures were performed in patients with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative and blinding eye disease.

The device — the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System — is not activated until the patient has sufficiently recovered from surgery. The patient then undergoes training to adapt to the new vision, a process that can take from 1 to 3 months.

The retinal prosthesis is surgically implanted in one eye. The individual wears glasses equipped with a camera that captures images and converts them into a series of small electrical pulses. The pulses are transmitted wirelessly to the prosthesis and its array of electrodes on the surface of the retina. These pulses are intended to stimulate the retina’s remaining cells, resulting in the corresponding perception of patterns of light in the brain. The patient then learns to interpret these visual patterns, thereby regaining some visual function.

To be eligible to receive the retinal prosthesis, individuals must be 25 years old or older with end-stage retinitis pigmentosa that has progressed to the point of having “bare light” or no light perception in both eyes.

Source: University of Michigan; January 29, 2014.

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