Tiny Telescope Implanted In The Eye Restores Sight in Patients With Macular Degeneration

A tiny device is making a big difference in the lives of people with end-stage macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 65 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

October 23, 2013

A “Bionic Eye” for Leading Cause of Blindness in Americans Over Age 65

(Washington, D.C.) A tiny device is making a big difference in the lives of people with end-stage macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 65 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Macular degeneration is a disease of the retina where there is a change in the cells on the macula which is the center part of the retina,” said Jay Lustbader, MD, Ophthalmology chair and director of Cornea and Refractive Surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “In some patients the macula will scar in the center of the retina and result in a large blind spot in the central part of their vision.”

Jay Lustbader, MD (seated right) and his Ophthalmology surgical team implant a miniature telescope into a patient with advanced macular degeneration.
Jay Lustbader, MD (seated right) and his Ophthalmology surgical team implant a miniature telescope into a patient with advanced macular degeneration.

Ann Montefusco of Clearwater, Florida has been legally blind for eight years due to macular degeneration. She is unable to see the faces of her loved ones, read a menu, drive a car or sign her own checks.

On October 2, 2013 Ann became one of the first people in the Washington, DC area to receive an implantable miniature telescope (IMT) at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. The IMT was recently FDA approved and is part of a treatment program called CentraSight (www.CentraSight.com).

“I was so excited to have this done,” said Ann. “I’m an avid golfer and I really look forward to being able to see normally again.”

To implant the tiny telescope, Dr. Lustbader makes a 12 mm incision in the cornea of one eye, removes the lens and replaces it with the telescope implant. “The idea of the telescope is to magnify the view and make that blind spot smaller so patients can see. The eye with the telescope will replace their central vision, while the other eye will maintain the person’s peripheral vision. In the weeks after the surgery patients perform eye exercises to learn how to balance the two fields of vision."

CentraSight, which includes the implantation of the eye telescope, is a four-step program.

“First the patient receives the medical diagnosis of AMD,” said Dr. Lustbader. “Then the patient is evaluated to see if the implantable telescope is likely to be successful. The surgery is next, followed by weeks of rehabilitation where the patient learns how to use their new vision.”

“I am now working with my occupational therapist, learning how to use my new telescope,” said Ann. “If I focus using the telescope everything is larger. Eventually my brain will work with me. I’m very encouraged.”

The telescopic implant isn’t for everyone. “Patients are screened and tested in advance to make sure they’re good candidates for the procedure to be successful. Occupational therapy after the surgery can take as long as three to four months,” said Dr. Lustbader. “Patients must be motivated and committed to the therapy program after the surgery.”

The CDC reports that an estimated 1.8 million people age over the age of 40 have macular degeneration; a little more than a half a million have end-stage AMD and are potentially candidates for the implant. The number of people with end-stage AMD is expected to reach 2.9 million by 2020, according to the CDC and age- related cases of AMD are projected to double in people over the age of 50 by 2050.

To be evaluated for CentraSight, call 1-877-99-SIGHT (1-877-997-4448).

About MedStar Georgetown University Hospital

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital is a not-for-profit, acute-care teaching and research hospital with 609 beds located in Northwest Washington, D.C. Founded in the Jesuit principle of cura personalis—caring for the whole person—MedStar Georgetown is committed to offering a variety of innovative diagnostic and treatment options within a trusting and compassionate environment.

MedStar Georgetown’s centers of excellence include neurosciences, transplant, cancer and gastroenterology. Along with Magnet® nurses, internationally recognized physicians, advanced research and cutting-edge technologies, MedStar Georgetown’s healthcare professionals have a reputation for medical excellence and leadership. MedStar Georgetown University Hospital—Knowledge and Compassion Focused on You.

About MedStar Health

MedStar Health combines the best aspects of academic medicine, research and innovation with a complete spectrum of clinical services to advance patient care. As the largest healthcare provider in Maryland and the Washington, D.C., region, MedStar’s 10 hospitals, the MedStar Health Research Institute and a comprehensive scope of health-related organizations are recognized regionally and nationally for excellence in medical care. MedStar has one of the largest graduate medical education programs in the country, training more than 1,100 medical residents annually, and is the medical education and clinical partner of Georgetown University. MedStar Health is a $4.5 billion not-for-profit, regional healthcare system based in Columbia, Maryland, and one of the largest employers in the region. Its almost 30,000 associates and 6,000 affiliated physicians all support MedStar Health’s Patient First philosophy that combines care, compassion and clinical excellence with an emphasis on customer service.

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