Oct. 06, 2014  Laura Oleniacz
 
Larry Hester, 66, and his eye surgeon Dr. Paul Hahn smile and laugh as Hester’s new bionic eye is turned on for the first time Oct. 1. Hester has been blind since his early 30s from a condition called retinitis pigmentosa. While the device does not restore vision in the normal sense, it provides light-and-darkness differentiation. He’s the seventh person in the United States to receive the visual aid since the device, known as the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Duke is only the fourth center in the country to implant the device since approval.
 
DURHAM —

Larry Hester lost his sense of sight due to a degenerative eye disease that has no cure. But since Wednesday, he said, he’s been able to see flashes of light from the contrast of a white bird on the water at Duke Gardens, a chrysanthemum in brown mulch, and the headlights of passing cars.

The Raleigh resident is able to see flashes of light after undergoing surgery at the Duke Eye Center to receive a retinal prosthetic device known as a “bionic eye.” He was the first person in the state and the seventh in the country to receive the implant since it became commercially available.

After his surgery on Sept. 10 and a recovery period, Hester’s device was programmed early last week and turned on Wednesday. On Monday, he returned to Duke to start therapy that aims to help him use the device and interpret what he sees. Rather than seeing a continuous stream of light, Hester said he sees flashes.

“It’s more like a kind of maybe an old-time flash bulb like you used to use with cameras, or kind of almost like strobe light flashes,” he said. “And there’s no rhyme or reason to the flashes now, but they kind of dance around like a fire trying to start or something. Right now, there’s no definite shape of the light, just flashing lights.”

Called the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis System, the device has a camera mounted on a pair of glasses. Visual information from the camera is translated into electrical signals that stimulate cells of retina to send visual signals to the brain.

The technology was developed by California-based Second Sight Medical Products Inc. and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last year. It was approved for people with a severe form of the eye disease retinitis pigmentosa.

Dr. Paul Hahn, a Duke ophthalmologist and the principal surgeon for the Argus II Retinal Prosthesis system at the medical center, said that since this is the first time the surgery has been done at Duke and is one of the first in the country, they don’t yet know what kind of progress to expect. However, he said, Hester’s ability is “certainly much better.”

“The things he’s been able to do are remarkable,” he said.

With the lights turned off in a room at the Duke Eye Center on Monday, Fay Tripp, an occupational therapist at Duke Medicine, told Hester to shut his eyes and cover them with his hands, leaving the camera of the device exposed….Read more: http://www.heraldsun.com/news/localnews/x532295969/Therapy-helps-Raleigh-man-interpret-vision-from-implanted-device

 

Source: Herald Sun 

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