BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A major advance in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is now available to patients in Baton Rouge. The CentraSight implant, described as a "mini telescope," can fix the most common cause of blindness in people over age 65.
An estimated 2 million Americans suffer from end-stage AMD, developing a blind spot in their main line of sight which makes faces and words unrecognizable.
"These patients eventually get isolated at home, or they cannot engage in social activities. This is a new opportunity for patients to regain some independence," said Dr. Waldemar Torres, a retina specialist new to Retina and Vitreous of Louisiana.
Torres recently became the only doctor in the Capital area screening patients for the implant. Candidates must be at least 65-years-old and have end-stage age-related macular degeneration, but have never had cataract surgery.
A hand-held simulator helps determine which patients would benefit most, and then they are referred to corneal surgeon Thomas Stuckey with Eye Specialists of Louisiana. The procedure takes about one hour.
Developed by Dr. Isaac Lipshitz and VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies, the CentraSight telescope magnifies images and projects them onto the healthy part of the retina. It is only placed in one eye.
"We're removing (the eye's) lens but leaving behind what's called the capsule of the lens," Stuckey explained while holding a model of the eye. "It's sort of a sac that holds the lens. That provides us a platform that we can slide the implant in, and it'll rest inside this capsule and center itself in the pupil."
After the procedure, patients need at least three months of occupational therapy to learn how to use their new vision.
"It's learning to use the implant eye when you're trying to focus on something small or in your central vision, and using your non-implanted eye, which still has the peripheral vision. That combination can help them see like they haven't seen in years," Stuckey said.
Dr. Torres stressed that there is no cure for macular degeneration, but the implant can be life-changing for some people. He worked with at least six such patients in Florida.
"They were ecstatic. They were able to see people's faces. One of the patients I had, it was the first time that they saw the face of their grandchildren," he said.
CentraSight was initially approved for patients ages 75 and older, but the minimum age was lowered to 65 in October. It is also Medicare eligible.
Despite the availability of new drug treatments that slow the progression of AMD, the number of people with end-stage AMD is expected to double by the year 2050.
For more information, call Retina and Vitreous of Louisiana at 768-8833 or visit CentraSight.com.