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North Park Man First In San Diego To Have Telescope Implanted Into Eye

A miniature telescope implanted into the eye of an 85-year-old man suffering from macular degeneration was the first surgery of its kind in San Diego County, Sharp Healthcare reported Thursday.

On Monday, Sharp ophthalmologist John Bokosky implanted the 4-millimeter device -- which received Federal Drug Administration approval in 2010 -- into the right eye of Robert Keith at the Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion. In age-related macular degeneration, patients have a central blind spot or missing area in their vision that makes it difficult or impossible to see faces, read or perform everyday activities. There is no cure and no way to reverse its effects.

Once implanted into the eye, the telescope projects images onto an undamaged portion of a patient's retina. When combined with the optics of the other eye, this allows the patient to distinguish images that had been unrecognizable or difficult to see.

The doctor removed the natural lens in Keith's right eye and and replaced it with the tiny telescope. According to Sharp, the implant is virtually unnoticeable to others because it is totally inside the eye and mostly covered by the iris, the colored portion of the eye.

Over the next several months, Keith will work with specialists to retrain his brain to recognize images projected through the device, Sharp officials said. The retired North Park dentist hopes to better see the faces of his two daughters, read a newspaper, use a computer and once again play competitive bridge with his friends. Sharp said about 2 million Americans suffer from advanced macular degeneration.

To be considered a potential candidate for the telescope implant, patients must meet several age, vision and cornea health requirements. The device and visits associated with the treatment are Medicare-eligible.

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