• Vol. 35 No. 3, 137–144
  • 15 March 2006

Retinal Prostheses for the Blind



Introduction: Using artificial means to treat extreme vision impairment has come closer to reality during the past few decades. The goal of this research has been to create an implantable medical device that provides useful vision for those patients who are left with no alternatives. Analogous to the cochlear implants for some forms of hearing loss, these devices could restore useful vision by converting visual information into patterns of electrical stimulation that excite the remaining viable inner retinal neurons in patients with retinitis pigmentosa or age-related macular degeneration.

Methods: Data for this review were selected through a comprehensive literature search.

Results: Advances in microtechnology have facilitated the development of a variety of prostheses that can be implanted in the visual cortex, around the optic nerve, or in the eye. Some of these approaches have shown the promise of providing useful visual input to patients with visual impairments.

Conclusion: While the development of various retinal prostheses have shown promise in limited clinical trials, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages for each type of prosthesis. This review will focus primarily on the Epiretinal Intraocular Retinal Prosthesis, studied by our group, but will also briefly review other modalities: the subretinal prosthesis, cortical prosthesis, and optic nerve prosthesis.

Each year, thousands of people are afflicted with photoreceptor degenerative diseases that reduce vision to bare light perception or complete blindness. Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) is the leading cause of inherited blindness with 1.5 million people worldwide affected and an incidence of 1/3500 live births.

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