Honolulu woman undergoes bionic eye surgery to restore vision

Published: Mar. 25, 2015 at 7:27 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 25, 2015 at 7:47 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A 72-year-old Honolulu woman underwent a historic procedure Tuesday when surgeons partially restored her vision.

After being blind for two years, the woman underwent a four hour long bionic eye surgery at the Hawaii Eye Surgery Center of Hawaii.

The bionic eye works only for patients who have the hereditary disease, retinitis pigmentosa, which causes severe vision impairment, but bionic eye implant inventor Dr. Mark Humayan hopes the device will evolve to assist more patients.

The procedure was the first of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region and took over 25 years to develop.

“We have hundreds of millions of photo receptors in our eye, hundreds of millions, and with only 60 pixels patients who were completely blind can see large objects, can tell a table from a chair or a knife from a fork or a plate so it's very exciting to see what the brain is able to fill in,” Humayan said.

The patient will have to wear a special type of glasses that works as a camera and will process images to the device implanted in the patient's eye. The device will work as a processor so that the images the user “sees” will transfer from the retina, through the optic nerve and to the brain.

“If you can imagine if somebody is in total darkness and then they are actually able to see down a hallway and see somebody walk in a room, it's just a huge impactful, impact on their life,” lead surgeon Dr. Gregg Komane said.

Currently, the patient will see only shades of grey, but studies suggest there's a possibility of seeing up to nine colors.

The surgery was a success. In a week, the woman is expected to recover and see the world for the first time after completely losing her eyesight – a task that seemed impossible.

The device was recently approved by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration and the device is estimated to be $144,000. However, the cost is still being determined.

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