Purpose: An active microelectronic subretinal implant, developed to replace the photoreceptive function in hereditary degenerations of the outer retina, has been applied in a pilot and clinical study in patients with end-stage retinal degeneration.
Methods: The study population comprised 20 blind patients, all of whom lost vision as result of a hereditary retinal disease. An active visual implant was placed surgically within the subretinal space of each patient: subfoveal placement in eight patients (group 1) and parafoveal placement in 12 (group 2). Standardized low-vision tests, including light perception, light localization, movement detection, grating acuity, and visual acuity by Landolt C-rings, were used under masked, randomized implant-OFF and implant-ON conditions. For the chip-mediated vision functional results of both subject groups were compared.
Results: Three of 20 patients were excluded from analysis because of surgical or technical implant issues. Among patients with nonfoveal placement of the implant, 80% could perceive light, 10% recognized location, and 10% correctly distinguished stripe patterns up to a resolution of 0.33 cycles/degree. No nonfoveal placement patient passed the motion or Landolt C-ring tests. When the implant was placed subfoveally, 100% of patients could perceive light and determine light localization, 75% could resolve motion up to 35°/s, 88% correctly distinguished stripe patterns up to a resolution of 3.3 cycles/degree, and 38% passed a Landolt C-ring test with a decimal visual acuity of up to 20/546 (logMAR 1.43).
Conclusions: Subfoveal placement of active subretinal visual implants allows superior measurable outcomes compared to para- or nonfoveal placement locations. (ClinicalTrials.gov numbers, NCT01024803, NCT00515814.).
Keywords: artificial vision; neuroprosthetics; retinitis pigmentosa; subretinal visual implant.