A legally blind Wayne County man is the first Utah patient to undergo a new procedure – in which a telescope is implanted in the eye. The operation conducted at the University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center on December 26th is expected to result in better vision in coming weeks.
The telescope implanted in 86-year-old Craig Chappell’s eye is not so different from the tool Galileo Galilei used to look at the stars. It’s just a lot smaller. That’s according to Majid Moshirfar, Director of the Moran Eye Center’s Refractive Surgery Program and Cornea Program. He’s also the surgeon who replaced Chappell’s biological lens with a telescope.
“Imagine if you can take this two-lens system, make it micro-optics, make it small enough – the size of a small, little pea, and put them actually inside somebody’s eye, that’s amazing,” Moshirfar says.
Chappell is recuperating at his home in Fremont. Before the surgery, he suffered from macular degeneration – a condition affecting the retina which makes blind spots invade his vision. Dr. Moshirfar says it’s too soon to know if the procedure was a success, but the patient is already reporting an improvement.
“On the first day, he was saying you know, I can already see better, I can see the images close to me, and I can read the letters better, “ Moshirfar says. “I told him, Mr. Chappell, it’s going to take a while. It will take about three months for things to get better, and you have to go through training and get adapted to the telescope we have implanted, but I’m pretty optimistic on this.”
The treatment which was approved by the FDA in 2009 has been successful for other patients across the U.S. and in Europe. Moshirfar estimates there are more than 1.7 million people with end stage macular degeneration in the US who could be candidates for this procedure – most of them elderly.
“I think that you’re never too old to see,” Moshirfar says. “My philosophy is that if we can help patients, especially in a situation like this – some of these patients are desperate – there is nothing for them, they are completely legally blind, and if we can offer them something, something to improve their quality of life, we should do that for them.”
Moshirfar says there are already another five patients lined up to be approved for telescope implants at the Moran Eye Center.