Ophthalmologist and Garden City resident Gerard D’Aversa, MD, Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island (OCLI), performed Long Island’s first telescope implant on two patients with end-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a debilitating eye disease that destroys the eye’s macula, limiting central and detailed vision. People with the condition can only see fragments before them, with a large black spot in the middle of their field of vision. In its most advanced stages, the spot widens and wipes out most of the visual field.
Dr. D’Aversa performed both implant procedures at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, NY. “While it does not cure AMD, a leading cause of blindness in the elderly, it could help those who are legally blind resume reading, recognize faces and hopefully, increase their level of independence,” said Dr. D’Aversa.
The first-ever implantable telescope, about the size of a pea, is implanted inside one eye, behind the iris (the colored part of the eye). The tiny telescope received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Admin- istration (FDA) in 2010. The cost for the telescope implant and visits associated with the treatment program are Medicare eligible.
“Once the telescope is implanted, the patient works with a trained low-vision specialist for a few months to learn how to adjust to their new vision,” explained Dr. D’Aversa. “Patients learn to retrain their brain by using visual techniques and exercises that help them get used to seeing with the implant.”
Before the implantable telescope was introduced, there was no surgical treatment available that could restore a portion of the patient’s lost vision. Now with this device, there is new hope for patients with end-stage age-related AMD.
“We are very excited about the implantable telescope and since it has been demonstrated to improve vision and quality of life, we have received a lot of inquiries about it,” said Glenn Stoller, MD and retinal specialist with OCLI. “We are currently screening patients to determine if they are potential candidates to receive the implantable telescope.”
The implant is currently restricted to patients 75 years and older, in keeping with FDA guidelines. In general, to be considered a potential candidate for the telescope implant, the ophthalmologist must first confirm that potential candidates:
- Have irreversible, End-Stage AMD resulting from either dry or wet AMD
- Are no longer a candidate for drug treatment of their AMD
- Have not had cataract surgery in the eye in which the telescope will be implanted
- Have their doctor assess they have distance vision no better than 20/160 but no worse than 20/800
- May have glaucoma as long as the glaucoma is well-controlled, but must not have other diseases in the affected eye