In March 2013, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of the first retinal implant device. The device, Argus II, was designed to replicate some of the retina’s functions for patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa. At the America Academy of Ophthalmology’s annual meeting last fall, research presented revealed Argus II as having strong potential in aiding those suffering from the genetic disease to better recognize common items by enhancing their outlines.
Researchers studied eight patients wearing the retinal prosthesis, asking them to identify white or metallic objects placed in front of a dark background. They were then asked to identify the same items a second time with enhanced outlines. This test was conducted three times per patient – once with the retinal prosthesis in standard mode, once in scrambled mode as a positive control and then again with the device turned off to serve as a negative control.
The results of the identification of “solid objects” increased from 12.5 percent correct with the device turned off to 32.8 percent when the device was turned on. 26.2 percent were identified correctly when the device was placed in scrambled mode. When the items’ outlines were enhanced, 9.4 percent were identified correctly with the device turned off, 40.1 percent with the device on and 20.7 percent with the device on scramble.
Yvonne Luo, MA, FRCOphth, of the London Moorsfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, served as the lead researcher in this study of Argus II. Luo said that although the group of patients was small, they represented people with the most severe forms of retinitis pigmentosa and that the statistics of the study “have achieved significance due to the magnitude of change in the performance of the device within each subject.
The Argus II study is showing promise as a way to help those who have suffered blindness due to this genetic eye disease. When reviewig studies of this nature, we are reminded that educating patients about the importance of good retinal care, including comprehensive eye exams complete with ultra-widefield (UWF) retinal imaging is an ongoing process. Optos offers several devices capable of taking UWF images of patients’ retinas in a single capture in seconds. Visit our website or request a consultation for more information.