UCI Health specialists treat macular degeneration patients with miniature eye telescope

Successful treatment highlights partnership with community

July 07, 2014
Miniature eye telescope for advanced macular degeneration

Ophthalmologists at the new UCI Health Gavin Herbert Eye Institute, a state-of-the-art eye center that opened last fall, recently implanted the first CentraSight miniature telescope at the new facility to treat advanced macular degeneration. It was the sixth such procedure performed by UCI Health specialists since the FDA approved the implant in 2010.

In September 2013, Gavin Herbert Eye Institute opened its new home on the UC Irvine campus. The 70,000-square-foot building has 34 comfortable patient exam rooms, including an area specifically designed for pediatric care, the latest optical equipment, fully equipped outpatient surgical rooms and modern research labs. 

“Macular degeneration damages the retina and causes a blind spot in the center of a person’s field of vision,” said Dr. Sumit “Sam” Garg, the institute’s medical director. “The telescope projects an image onto an undamaged portion of the retina, making it possible for patients to recognize faces, read and perform daily activities.”

Fullerton resident Stewart Roberts underwent the 45-minute procedure, in which the pea-sized CentraSight telescope implant is inserted through an incision made in the cornea. 

Several weeks after the surgery, Roberts feels great and will soon start low-vision occupational therapy to retrain his brain to process the images seen through the device. 

“I’m just so excited,” Roberts said. “This is going to make all the difference in the world.”

The 80-year old was referred to Gavin Herbert Eye Institute by Dr. Timothy You, a retina specialists at Orange County Retina.  Specialists at Orange County Retina, as well as UCI Health retina experts Dr. Baruch Kuppermann and Dr. Stephanie Lu, can refer patients to cornea surgeons Garg and colleague Dr. Marjan Farid for the procedure.  Kuppermann conducted trials of the telescope at UC Irvine prior to its FDA approval. A similar partnership exists with eye-care specialists in the Inland Empire counties of Riverside and San Bernardino.

Garg said the Gavin Herbert Eye Institute is a resource for community-based eye specialists who want to offer their patients access to treatment, expertise and technology that may only be found at a university medical center.

“We want to make this treatment available to as many people living with end-stage age-related macular degeneration as possible,” Garg said. “Working with retina and low-vision specialists across the region is a great way to reach more people who may be helped.”

Clinical trials demonstrated that the implant, in addition to improved vision, increases patients' independence. It also aids social interaction by making visible the facial expressions of family and friends. 

“Until now, there has been no mechanism, surgical or medical, to restore that central sight,” said Farid, the institute's director of cornea, cataract and refractive surgery. “These patients are now experiencing a quality of life that they’ve not enjoyed in many years. My patient is seeing her son’s face for the first time in more than a decade.”

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved the miniature telescope in July 2010 for use in patients with irreversible end-stage macular degeneration. At least 15 million Americans are affected by some form of the disease. The cost for the telescope implant and visits associated with the associated treatment program are Medicare eligible.

 UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 412-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 13 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UC Irvine School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, western Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

CentraSight is a first-of-kind treatment program that utilizes a tiny telescope implant for End-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most advanced form of AMD and the leading cause of blindness in older Americans.  Patients with End-stage AMD have a central blind spot or missing area in their vision that makes it difficult or impossible to see faces, read, and perform everyday activities. The CentraSight treatment program allows patients to see details again by implanting a tiny telescope in the eye in an outpatient procedure, then coordinating with low vision specialists to help the patient learn how to use their new vision for everyday activities. For more information visit www.CentraSight.com.