Implantation, removal and replacement of subretinal electronic implants for restoration of vision in patients with retinitis pigmentosa

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The purpose of this review is to provide an update on the efforts to restore vision through subretinal implants in patients with degenerative retinal diseases. In addition to the current technique and its latest improvements, it will focus on the surgical technique of implantation as well as explantation and reimplantation.

Recent findings

The durability of the current subretinal implant RETINA IMPLANT Alpha AMS has increased substantially compared with the predecessor model RETINA IMPLANT Alpha IMS. According to validated examinations in the laboratory, a median lifetime of 4.7 years will be reached in clinical use; in similar examinations, the previous model has reached only 8 months. Visual function has slightly increased. The surgical technique for subretinal implants is complex and demanding for ophthalmic surgeons, as it is multifaceted and combines novel surgical steps in areas, which are not commonly entered such as the suprachoroidal and the subretinal space. The surgical approach for implantation has matured considerably and has led to successful implantation in 64 patient cases. Surgical challenges are now mainly encountered with the exact subfoveal positioning of the device. The explantation procedure is relatively straight-forward because the implant can be withdrawn in a reverse direction along the already existent subretinal path. Reimplantations, however, are more challenging because some degree of scar tissue may exist along the path of the chip and around the scleral trapdoor. Nevertheless, reimplantations have now been carried out successfully in four patients.

Summary

The new RETINA IMPLANT Alpha AMS shows significantly improved durability compared with the predecessor model RETINA IMPLANT Alpha IMS. The subretinal implant offers excellent visual results but requires experienced surgeons. Explantation of devices is straight-forward, and reimplantations are challenging but have been successful in four patients.

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