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News & Events

First Bionic Eye Surgery in New England

08/11/2017

Christine Steeves has been completely blind for four years. Until recently.  Watch her amazing story. 

By Mackenzie Snoddy
Tufts Medical Center Staff

Retinitis Pigmentosa is a rare, often genetic condition that damages the retina, ultimately resulting in blindness. Before reaching blindness, it can cause loss of peripheral vision and difficulty with night time vision. Although this condition is rare, any form of vision loss is a frightening thought and one that experts at Tufts Medical Center’s Department of Ophthalmology/New England Eye Center in Boston are always looking for new ways to delay or avoid.

In June, Tufts Medical Center became the first and only hospital in New England to offer implantation of the Argus II or “Bionic Eye”, which can help patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa see light again.

Led by retinal specialists, Dr. Michelle Liang and Dr. Andre Witkin, Tufts Medical Center/New England Eye Center is proud to provide this unique, innovative option for patients with severe to profound retinitis pigmentosa. Please read below for more information on the device, procedure and criteria to see if you might be eligible for this device.

Bionic eye technology

The Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System (Argus II), created by Second Sight, is an electrode implant that can help people who suffer from retinitis pigmentosa perceive light again. With the help of a special pair of glasses and electronic data, the electrodes on the implant stimulate the retinal cells and transmit visual information to the brain. While it doesn’t restore normal vision, it helps people who are completely blind perceive light and reflections of light.

About the implant procedure

If you are a candidate for the procedure, further in office evaluation and discussion with our surgical team will help you decide if this is a viable option for you.

During the surgery, a band is tucked under the eye muscles of the most severely affected eye, an incision is made into the white part of eye, and the electrode is placed on top of the retina.

After the initial post-operative healing period, a full team of our eye care experts will evaluate and activate the device. After initial activation, multiple visits with a rehab and low vision specialist will allow you to learn how to use the device most effectively.

Are you a candidate for the bionic eye implant?

In order to determine if you are a candidate for the procedure, please call Second Sight at (800) 296-6605 for more information. A screening visit with surgeons at the New England Eye Center will then be scheduled based off of this information.

The FDA has approved this procedure for patients with severe to profound retinitis pigmentosa who meet specific criteria:

  • Adults ages 25 and older
  • Bare or no light perception in both eyes
  • Previous history of useful form vision
  • Aphakic or pseudophakic
  • Willing and able to receive the recommended post-implant clinical follow-up, device fitting, and visual rehabilitation 

Anyone interested in learning more should contact Second Sight, the maker of the device, at 800-296-6605.

The above content is provided for educational purposes by Tufts Medical Center. It is free for educational use. For information about your own health, contact your physician.