Rise of the robotic eye

The cost of retinal implant technology is justified by quality of life benefits, scientific review concludes


A review of electronic retinal implants and artificial vision published in the Eye has concluded that the quality of life benefits to the patient outweigh the cost of the technology.

The study highlights two retinal implants, the Argus II and Alpha-IMS, as most likely to succeed in the future due to the fact that they have undergone multicentre human trials.

The authors report: “The trial results to date are encouraging with visual improvement and acceptable safety profiles reported for both devices.”

“At present, the visual function generated by either device does not offer high enough resolution or acuity for a patient to regain a fully functional life. Despite this, both devices not only have the potential, but have actually improved the vision-related quality of life in a significant number of patients implanted,” they elaborate.

Keeping this in mind, the economic argument for retinal implants is clear, the authors emphasise.

“Provided the device-life is long enough, its cost should be acceptable for the obtained improvement in the quality of life.”

At the end of last year, NHS England announced that 10 patients with retinitis pigmentosa would receive the Argus II in 2017.

The move is the first publicly funded clinical trial of the device, which is developed by Second Sight.

A press release from Second Sight reports that the trial will evaluate the “real-life benefits” to patients of using the device.

“From this evidence, NHS England will make a decision whether to routinely fund the treatment in eligible patients,” the company concluded.