Doctors in July last year surgically implanted bionic eyes in a 30-year-old man, helping him fulfill his dream of being able to see his son, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital Retina Division Director Huang Yi-hsiu (黃奕修) said on Thursday.
Huang said the man, surnamed Tso (左), had retinitis pigmentosa, which often leads to tunnel vision, but rarely causes total blindness.
About 8,000 to 10,000 Taiwanese suffer from the condition and there is no cure, but cybernetic eye implants can alleviate the condition, Huang said.
Photo courtesy of Chang Gung Memorial Hospital
A patient surnamed Kao (高), who also had retinal dystrophy, was in 2017 the first person in Taiwan to undergo a cybernetic eye implant, Huang said, adding that Kao’s vision was close to 0.05 diopters after rehabilitation.
The hospital’s research team said that 96 percent of people with bionic eyes can see shapes, such as squares, triangles or circles straight after their surgery, and more than 60 percent can see objects about 10m away from them.
While their vision is likely to be far from perfect, bionic eyes allow people to perform basic activities, such as using utensils and opening doors, which is a vast improvement, Huang said.
However, bionic eyes are expensive and cost up to NT$6 million (US$194,408), Huang said, adding that bionic eyes are even more expensive in Europe.
All seven implants conducted by the hospital have been clinical trials and the bionic eyes were donations from the Chang Gung group’s charity organization, the hospital said.
Medical teams from the US and Europe have come to observe the procedures, the hospital said, adding that it was last month presented with a certificate for being an outstanding center for bionic eye surgery.
Bionic eyes are made up of microcomputers, antennae and microchips, and restores vision to the patient by receiving wireless signals sent from a camera mounted on a pair of glasses, Huang said, adding that they are charged wirelessly.
The electronic components are minuscule and do not cause the patient discomfort, he added.
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