Acute electrical stimulation of the human retina with an epiretinal electrode array

Acta Ophthalmol. 2012 Feb;90(1):e1-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1755-3768.2011.02288.x. Epub 2011 Nov 8.


Purpose: To determine the threshold charges needed for eliciting visual perceptions through acute electrical stimulation of the human retina in patients suffering from retinitis pigmentosa, using an epiretinal microelectrode array.

Methods: In a multicentre study, 20 patients (average age 55 years) with visual acuities ranging from 4/200 to no light perception were included. The stimulation procedure was performed during a pars plana vitrectomy, for a maximum of 45 min, by using a microcontact film with IrO(x) electrodes connected by cable to a current generator. After repeated stimulation and threshold charge determination, the microelectrode array was removed.

Results: Nineteen of 20 patients stated in the postoperative interviews that they experienced one or more visual perceptions with close time correlation to single stimulation events. Minimum threshold charges needed to generate visual perceptions could be measured and verified in 15 patients. The charge level ranged from 20 to 768 nC with single or multiple electrodes. One patient suffered a retinal detachment during the procedure; this patient's retina was successfully reattached. There were no further adverse reactions observed during the 3-month follow-up.

Conclusion: Acute epiretinal stimulation of the human retina, using a microelectrode array, can elicit visual perceptions in blind patients with retinitis pigmentosa.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy*
  • Electrodes, Implanted*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microelectrodes
  • Middle Aged
  • Retina / physiology*
  • Retinal Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Retinal Degeneration / therapy*
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Visual Acuity / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*