Emory Eye Center

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New technology — new sight

IMT telescope

Illustration of the implantable minature telescope (IMT) inserted into the affected eye through the cornea and placed behind the iris. Images seen through the tiny telescope are reflected on the part of the macula that has not yet been affected by AMD.


Jackie Carswell with John Kim, MD

Jackie Carswell and friend in clinic with Dr. Kim

Seventy-six year old Jackie Carswell knew she had turned a corner just six weeks following her implantable miniature telescope (IMT) surgery, when she could see that the cranberry sauce she had read about in her hometown newspaper for 68 cents was not the cranberry sauce she located at the store for $1.19. Asking a clerk about it, she was able to locate the cheaper cans nearby. That was a real moment, she recalls. She could actually discern the difference in the two cans and their costs, because she could read the prices.

Carswell had not been able to read for some time because she has age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which destroys the central vision needed to read, identify faces and do other fine, close-up work. She participated in the first FDAapproved IMT implant surgery at Emory with cornea specialist and surgeon John Kim.

According to Carswell, a vibrant a 76-year-old, the only downside of her surgery is that she had hoped to be able to drive and cannot, but that is the only downside, she says. “This has been a challenge, but my friends have helped me so much,” she says smiling. Carswell has a group of friends who bring her from southwest Georgia to her appointments, a three-hour trip.

Living alone, she cooks for herself. Being able to read her recipes and navigate the kitchen are two things she is now able to manage better. Learning how to look through the tiny telescope in her eye to see text is something she works on daily. At Emory’s Ned S. Witkin Vision Rehabilitation Service, an occupational therapist sees her weekly and prescribes home therapy.

IMT compared to size of fingertip Jackie Carswell with bowling badges

Implantable miniature telescope (above top)
Jackie Carswell with bowling award badges

The surgery, for those with end-stage AMD, was approved by the FDA in 2010. It is for those over 75 years of age who have not had cataract surgery in the eye to be implanted. Medicare has a coverage plan for qualified patients

An award-winning bowler, Carswell likes anything that “gets her moving,” she says. However, her vision therapy requires deliberate and focused work. But for one who achieved the “killer shot,” the 7-10 split in bowling, there is no doubt that she’ll continue to put the same effort into her therapy.

A person who goes at life with gusto, Jackie said slowing down to do her home therapy allows her to be more successful in gaining her new-found vision. “My good friend let me know that the reason I was frustrated with my progress was because I was going at it too fast,” she says smiling. “I’m slowing down now,” she adds winking.

Virginia Walsingham with Donna Inkster

Virginia Walsingham with Donna Inkster in the Ned S. Witkin Vision Rehabilitation Clinic

Since 2003 Virginia Walsingham had read about the implantable miniature telescope in clinical trials.

Diagnosed with macular degeneration in 1989, she had lost vision over the years, but was in the care of great doctors and also had the good fortune to attend a school in Florida that taught her how to optimize the vision she had remaining.

“I learned lessons on mobility, cooking, folding money so I could know the correct denominations, as well as keyboarding,” she recalls. “The school had a fundraiser walk, and I raised the most money. As a result, I won a computer,” she says.“I also have a CCTV (closed circuit TV that magnifies images), so I can read my bills. I have lived alone since 1996, so being able to do things for myself is important.”

But as her vision declined, Walsingham began considering the implant. She even talked with IMT patients in other parts of the country. One, an 89-year-old woman, gave her great confidence. “If she could do it,” she says laughing, “surely, I could too!”

“My vision is just starting to come together, and I’m seeing more and more each day. Yesterday, for the first time, I saw the numbers of my home security keypad!” she says proudly.

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