‘Bionic eye’ successfully restores sight of pensioner

Retinal implant has been used successfully to treat macular degeneration

A retinal implant, or "bionic eye" has successfully restored the central vision of a British pensioner. Ray Flynn of Manchester received the Argus II retinal implant last month in a four-hour procedure at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.

Mr Flynn experienced deteriorating central vision over the last eight years from the effects of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and had largely relied on his peripheral vision to get by.

Since the operation, Mr Flynn has the ability to identify the figures of people and objects using his central vision, though the extent of the improvement is still unclear.

The retinal implant, which was developed by Second Sight Medical Projects, converts images captured by a miniature camera into electrical pulses which are wirelessly sent to electrodes installed on the surface of the retina.


Dara Kilmartin, consultant retinal surgeon at Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital in Dublin, noted that the device "had some benefits, though they were currently limited."

Mr Kilmartin said that due to the implant’s high costs, it was currently not a realistic public health initiative, and that the implant would need a “ten-fold” increase in electrodes to make meaningful changes to the patient’s vision.

While the implant had been used to treat retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a degenerative eye disease that leads to blindness, this is the first case where the patient has had peripheral vision before the implant.

It is believed that Mr Flynn is now the first person who sees through a combination of natural and artificial means.

Researchers at Waterford Institute of Technology estimate that just under six per cent of Irish people aged 50 or older live with dry AMD, making it the most common cause of vision impairment for that age group.

The Argus II retinal implant has is becoming increasingly available across the US and Europe, and has recently been released commercially in Turkey, Spain and Austria.

While the procedure has not yet been made available in Ireland, Mr Kilmartin said that "the expertise was here."