BY HERBERT ATIENZA,
Loma Linda University Medical Center, reporting from Loma Linda, California
After two decades of gradually losing his vision, Roy Kennedy
figured he had little to lose by agreeing to take part in a new procedure at
Loma Linda University Medical Center that implants a tiny telescope in his eye
to let him see again.
A few weeks after having the miniature telescope implanted in
his right eye, the 77-year old Moreno Valley, Calif. resident, who had suffered
from end-stage age-related macular degeneration (also known as AMD), has no
“It’s the best thing I’ve done; it has allowed me to come
out of a shell I’ve created for myself because of my lack of eyesight,” said
Kennedy, a retired educator from Banning School District, whose surgery was
performed by renowned LLUMC eye surgeon Dr. Howard Gimbel.
Loma Linda University Medical Center is the first hospital
in California’s Inland Empire to implant the telescope implant for patients
with AMD, the leading cause of blindness in older Americans. The FDA-approved
telescope implant is the main feature of CentraSight, a new patient care
program for treating patients with AMD. The first-of-its-kind telescope implant
is believed to be the only surgical option that improves vision by reducing the
impact of the central vision blind spot caused by AMD. The cost for the
telescope implant and visits associated with the treatment are Medicare
Patients with AMD suffer from a central blind spot, meaning
they have difficulty seeing when they look “straight ahead.” Patients often
have difficulty or find it impossible to recognize faces, read the newspapers,
or watch TV.
The telescope implant, which is slightly smaller than a pea,
uses micro-optical technology to magnify images that can be seen by central
vision. The images are projected onto the healthy portion of the retina not
affected by the disease.
“For people who have severe difficulty seeing anything that
they are looking at directly, as when reading, any improvement in their
eyesight makes a big difference in their quality of life,” Gimbel said.
He said the procedure is not for everyone, and there are
strict criteria for candidates, including that patients must not have had
Dr. Michael Rauser, vice-chair and associate residency
program director of the Loma Linda University Department of Ophthalmology, said
the addition of the implantable miniature telescope as a treatment for patients
with stable, advanced age-related macular degeneration, is an important new
therapy for patients suffering from end-stage macular degeneration.
“Loma Linda University Medical Center Department of
Ophthalmology strives to be a Center of Excellence for the Inland Empire, and
the local availability of the implantable miniature telescope is another
example of this philosophy,” Rauser said. “Instead of a standard intraocular
lens, a miniature telescope is inserted into the eye after cataract removal.
This provides improved distance visual acuity, while minimizing the loss of
peripheral vision that is associated with the use of external telescopes.”
Since the procedure, Kennedy worked with therapists at Loma
Linda University Medical Center, who are especially trained to help low-vision
patients, to help get used to going about his daily life with the telescope
implant. He said he’s grateful for the little things that people with good
vision often take for granted.
“Before, when I went to the grocery store, all I did was
push the cart,” he said. “Now, I can go to the store [and] pick out the items
that I like.”