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Implantable Miniature Telescope Lens for Macular Degeneration

The implantable miniature telescope lens is a major step forward in treatment for people living with age-related macular degeneration. Approved in 2010 in the United States, the procedure returns vision to people ages 65 and older and who have late-stage AMD in both eyes. Medicare covers the cost of the procedure because the procedure is not considered cosmetic. 

About an Implantable Miniature Telescope Lens

An implantable miniature telescope lens is a pea-sized telescope implanted into the eye, usually behind the iris. The purpose of this tiny telescope is to improve the quality of sight in people affected by end-stage age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The implant is so small that you will neither notice it nor feel it after it has been put into place. 

AMD is an eye condition that affects the center part of your vision. The vision condition is prevalent in people ages 50 and older. Until recently, there was little-to-no hope of a cure for AMD cases. The best way you could deal with the disease is to manage it and avoid quick progression. 

Technology for the implant was developed by VisionCare, Inc. The lens underwent extensive research and rigorous testing for more than five years before it was finally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010.

How It Works 

After doctors place the implant into the eye, the telescope projects images from your central field of view to the healthy areas of your retina outside the degenerated macula. The projected images are magnified, reducing the effect of blind spots on your central vision. 

Healthy areas outside the macula area are used for side or peripheral vision. The images that get projected by the telescope get magnified by a factor of 2.2 to 2.7, making it possible to see more clearly anything in your central field of vision.

Who Are Suitable Candidates? 

There is a strict screening process to determine eligible candidates for the telescopic implant. You must meet the following qualifying criteria:

  • You should be 65 years or older.
  • You must have a visual acuity range of between 20/160 and 20/800.
  • You should have end-stage AMD in both eyes. You can have either dry AMD or wet AMD. 
  • You should have exhausted other AMD treatments, such as anti-VEGF therapy, without positive results.
  • You should not have had cataract surgery on the eye in which the miniature telescope is to be implanted. Note: Researchers are studying this, and this qualification could change in the future.

You must undergo extensive testing with external telescopes to determine if the procedure will prove beneficial. You will also have several appointments with an eye expert who specializes in low vision, and they may carry additional tests to gauge the prospected surgery’s efficacy level. 

implantable telescope lens surgery

What to Expect During the Procedure

Implanting this tiny telescope takes 60 to 90 minutes as an outpatient procedure, although you should arrange for a ride home following surgery.

Surgery begins with the doctor numbing your eye and applying special eye drops to enlarge your pupil temporarily. 

Next, the specialist will remove your natural lens and replace it with the telescopic one, then close the incision with tiny sutures. You may have to stay at your doctor’s office or surgery center for a while following the procedure while the doctor checks on your recovery before clearing you to go home.

After the procedure, you will have to apply prescribed eye drops for a few weeks as you allow the eye to heal and recover. You will also have several follow-up appointments to monitor the recovery and adjustment for a few weeks or months.

Benefits of Implantable Miniature Telescope Lens

Implant surgery should improve your quality of life because you will not have to rely on others for routine tasks and chores. For example, if you want to type out a text or read a book, you will not necessarily need to get someone else to do it for you.

Other benefits:

  • You will be able to read standard-sized text ranging from newspapers, screens and books from an arm’s length away.
  • You will be able to recognize faces and nearby objects.
  • You can enjoy hobbies that require a keen eye, like knitting, painting, writing, playing video games and gardening.

FDA trials and tests revealed positive long-term effects for people who underwent the surgical procedure.

Risks Associated with IMT Procedures

Risks associated with IMT procedures include:

  • You may be exposed to risks associated with cataract surgery, including bleeding, infection, retinal detachment and inflammation.
  • You may experience blurry vision if cells of the inner cornea are damaged during the procedure.
  • It may take a while before you can fully adjust to the new vision.

How Much Does the Procedure Cost? 

IMT procedures are not inexpensive. The miniature telescope alone costs about $15,000. If you are covered by Medicare, the cost will be insured because this is not considered a cosmetic procedure. 

Check with your medical insurance company about your coverage. Your ophthalmologist may have to help convince your insurer that the surgery is not elective and that it is needed to preserve your health.

Not that the process of getting the procedure covered by insurance may take time. It is time well-spent.

FAQs 

What is an implantable miniature telescope? 

It is a minuscule telescope used to replace the natural lens and pretty much works like the lens of a camera. It improves images ahead of you and magnifies the images to the retina to create a better picture and improve your vision. 

What dysfunction in the eyes would benefit from an implantable miniature telescope? 

This procedure is beneficial to people who have lost central vision as the result of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). 

What is a right intraocular telescope?

An intraocular telescope is a device that magnifies images and improves projection to the macular. This helps improve your vision and can help you read better and see clearly, especially short distances right in front of you.

References

  1. What is Retinal Detachment? (April 2022). National Eye Institute.

  2. What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration? (April 20, 2021) National Health Service.

  3. Incidence of and Risk Factors Associated With Age-Related Macular Degeneration. (May 2018). Journal of the American Medical Association.

  4. The Treatment Paradigm for the Implantable Miniature Telescope. (June 2016). National Center for Biotechnology Information.

  5. Long-Term (60-month) Results for the Implantable Miniature Telescope: Efficacy and Safety Outcomes Stratified by Age in Patients with End-Stage Age-Related Macular Degeneration. (June 2015). National Center for Biotechnology Information.

  6. FDA Approves Implantable telescope. (November 2010). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

  7. Common Causes of Vision Loss in Elderly Patients. (July 1999). American Academy of Family Physicians.

Last Updated June 8, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.