Successful treatment highlights UC Irvine Health’s partnership with community.
Ophthalmologists at the new UC Irvine 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 UC Irvine 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 UC Irvine 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.