Breakthrough eye surgery performed in Utah

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A breakthrough surgery that involves implanting a tiny telescope inside an eyeball was just performed in Utah for the first time.

The surgery is for those suffering from age-related macular degeneration – the leading cause of blindness in older Americans.

Dr. Majid Moshirfar at the John Moran Eye Center became the first surgeon in Utah to do the procedure, Thursday.

“The principle of ophthalmology doesn’t change – we know how to make incisions whether it’s one millimeter, whether it’s 14 inches,” Moshirfar said.

Moshirfar said patients with AMD still have peripheral sight but have lost their central vision.

“So when they are looking at their loved ones at close image they can’t see their face, they see their ears or their neck or maybe their forehead and by being able to magnify the image all of a sudden they are able to see their grandchildren,” Moshirfar said.

The telescope implant surgery was approved by the FDA in 2009. Since then, specialists have been screening prospects, but only about one in five with the eye condition qualifies.

“Many of our patients that we see, even though they can be candidates and go through the screening, they`ve already had their cataracts done and unfortunately if you`ve already had your cataracts done at this time, unfortunately we cannot do the surgery for them,” Moshirfar said.

Craig Chappell, 86, told his surgeon he was already seeing more clearly since the procedure on Thursday. Moshirfar said that is just the beginning, and recovery is typically a few months.

“It’s going to take a while because it really takes about three months for things to get better and you have to go through training and get adapted to the telescope that we have implanted, but I’m pretty optimistic on this as well,” Moshirfar said.

The surgery is covered by Medicare. But the procedure for Utah’s first patient was free.