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Implantable Miniature Telescope Offers Some Age-Related Macular Degeneration Patients a New Lease on Life

08/25/2011   08:30:00 AM

Notable study appears in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – A new study in Ophthalmology (online), the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, says that an implantable miniature telescope (IMT) makes a positive difference in the lives of some people with end-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These patients had lost most of their central vision and were considered legally blind. They had either stopped responding to AMD medications or had a form of the disease for which no treatment is available. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among older people in the United States.

By the end of the two-year study, vision improved from 20/326 to 20/141 (mean values) in 76 patients who received the 3X model IMT. Most patients could once again see people's faces rather than just blurry outlines, and could get around the market or their backyard on their own. Overall, these IMT patients' lives improved substantially and at a reasonable cost. Quality of life was measured using a system called human value gain, with standards based on the actual experiences of people with vision loss. The study was led by Gary C. Brown, MD, MBA, of the Center for Value-Based Medicine.

"Only by 'walking a mile in a patient's shoes' can we understand the true impact of vision loss and the value of restored sight," Dr. Brown said.

A year ago the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the IMT as a treatment for end-stage AMD. Only patients who meet strict criteria, pass pre-surgery tests with an external eye telescope and agree to vision training afterward are eligible. The FDA plans to follow IMT patients for at least five years to check for long-term effectiveness and safety.

IMT surgery and related care cost $18,494 per patient. But restoring vision often eliminates the need for other medical services. So, Dr. Brown's team subtracted costs that these patients would probably not incur, such as treatment for depression and vision-related injuries, skilled nursing care, nursing home facilities, and other costs; this brought IMT treatment down to $14,389. Medicare covers IMT treatment in some states.

The report also compared IMT treatment to several widely accepted medical treatments, in terms of how much each improved both length and quality of life. The IMT scored better than treatments for high blood pressure, enlarged prostate, osteoporosis and other common illnesses.

The average age of patients in Dr. Brown's study was 75, and all had severe vision loss due to either wet AMD that had stopped responding to treatment with drugs like Avastin or Lucentis, or advanced dry AMD, for which there is no treatment.

The tiny telescope, implanted in the back of the eye in the lens capsule, magnifies images so that the retina can relay better visual information to the optic nerve. Peripheral (side) vision is somewhat reduced by the IMT, but the patient's other, non-implanted eye is able to help with that, once the patient receives training that helps the brain learn to fuse the images received from each eye.

Media: Full text of the study is available from the Academy's media relations department.

About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye M.D.s—with more than 30,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three "O's" – ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org .

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