A group of researchers have just released a review arguing that electronic retinal implants are worth the investment for people suffering serious retinal diseases. Although these implants don't fully restore vision, the study authors say that these devices greatly enhance a patient's quality of life and are totally safe to use.
Two retinal implants stood out in this comprehensive review: the Alpha-IMS and the Argus II. Researchers believe these two implants have the best potential for future success thanks to the fact that they've both gone through extensive multicenter human trials.
Doctors say that both of these devices "improved the vision-related quality of life in a significant number of patients implanted." They also note that the multicenter human trials show great safety profiles for these products.
Even though the authors say these retinal devices can't offer a "high enough resolution or acuity for a patient to regain a fully functional life," they believe these devices are a good investment. Of course, the longer a person uses these implants, the more cost effective they will be.
The United Kingdom is leading the way when it comes to testing retinal implants on humans. NHS England recently announced that it would implant 10 retinitis pigmentosa patients with Argus II implants this year. This will be the first clinical trial of the device funded by a major healthcare system.
Second Sight Medical Products is the company behind the Argus II implants. Company executives told the press they hope this trial will be a success and that NHS England will consider "routinely" funding these implants in the future.
Second Sight is an American company that's headquartered in Sylmar, California. As of today, the Argus II is the company's main product.
In addition to retinitis pigmentosa, these retinal implants can be fitted into patients suffering age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Both of these diseases often don't present symptoms in the early stages and can lead to blindness without early treatment. Anyone over the age of 40 should get an annual eye exam to stay on top of these disorders.
Anyone interested in learning more about this review of electronic retinal implants can read the original article in the May 2017 edition of the medical journal Eye. The article is listed under the title "Electronic retinal implants and artificial vision: journey and present."