Telescopic Vision: Sarasota Patient First in Florida to Receive Telescope Implant for Macular Degeneration
Sarasota, FL, February 24, 2013 --(PR.com
)-- For the first time in Florida, a physician at Sarasota Memorial Hospital has surgically implanted the first FDA-approved telescope prosthesis for patients with end-stage macular degeneration.
Sarasota Neuro-Ophthalmologist Marc H. Levy, MD, implanted the pea-sized telescope directly into the right eye of 81-year-old Leslie Vlontis, a Venice woman with severe vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Dr. Levy performed the procedure in a little over an hour at Sarasota Memorial’s outpatient Cape Surgery Center on the hospital’s main campus Feb. 4.
AMD is a condition that affects mainly older people, damages the center of the retina (macula) and results in a loss of vision in the center of the visual field. About 8 million people in the United States have AMD and nearly 2 million of them have significant vision loss, according to the National Eye Institute. It is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss and legal blindness in the US and often makes it difficult or impossible to recognize faces or perform daily tasks like reading or watching TV.
The tiny telescope – part of VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies’ CentraSight® treatment program – is the first medical device approved by the FDA that is implanted into the eye to treat AMD, and the only treatment option for people whose AMD blindness no longer responds to medication. It was approved by the FDA in 2010, but did not become commercially available in Florida until last fall when it was approved for Medicare coverage.
“I’ve gone gray and nearly bald waiting for this day,” said Dr. Levy after today’s successful implant. “Our team was the Florida test site for this device 11 years ago, and we recognized the benefits to patients early on, both visually and psychologically. Although it’s not a cure, it is effective in restoring enough vision for people to enjoy many of the simple acts we all take for granted – pouring a cup of coffee, crossing the street safely, seeing a smile on their grandbaby’s face.”
The implant uses micro-optical technology to improve “straight ahead,” or central vision, Dr. Levy said. During surgery, the natural lens of the eye is removed and the telescope is inserted in its place. Working in conjunction with the cornea, the implant magnifies objects two to three times their normal size and projects the images beyond the scarred macula to the healthy part of the retina.
Patients who have the procedure still won’t be able to see all of the details of an object before them, but with about six to eight weeks of visual rehabilitation training, Dr. Levy says the brain can learn to put together images projected on the retina from both eyes to help them recognize faces, words on a page and pictures on a screen.
During clinical trials of the device, Dr. Levy implanted the miniature telescope in five area patients at the Cape Surgery Center between 2002-2004 and monitored their condition for the past 10 years. Three of the five patients have since passed away due to age, but he said the other two continue to enjoy better vision with their implants.
Not everyone is a candidate for the telescope. To qualify, potential patients must meet FDA age, vision and cornea health requirements. In addition, the CentraSight treatment program utilizes a multispecialty provider team approach for proper diagnosis, surgical evaluation and post-operative care. Prospective patients undergo a medical, visual, and functional evaluation prior to the surgery to assess if the benefits of the procedure outweigh the potential risks.
A unique aspect of the pre-operative evaluation is the ability to simulate, prior to surgery, what a person may expect to see once the telescope is implanted to determine if the possible improvement will meet the patient’s expectations.
“It’s not an immediate fix,” Dr. Levy said. “After we implant the telescope, the patient needs to work with our low vision team and rehabilitation specialists for a number of weeks to learn how to use the telescope in every day activities.”
About Sarasota Memorial Health Care System/Cape Surgery Center
Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is a regional referral center offering Southwest Florida’s greatest breadth and depth of inpatient, outpatient and extended care services, with more than 800,000 patient visits a year. For more information, visit: www.smh.com