GAINESVILLE, Va. (WUSA9) -- 76 year-old Ann Montefusco started having eye problems 23 years ago, and it's been a steady decline ever since.
Montefusco says, "It's like going into a tunnel. It's very dark. If you are going to a grocery store it's like a fog when you are going forward, and you don't see what you are buying, so lots of luck."
A description of the most common cause of blindness, macular degeneration.
So as we usually look inside a telescope, Ann will have one looking outside of her eye!Her doctorrecommended a new procedure that involves placing a working telescope directly inside her right eye.
Dr. Jay Lustbader ofMedstar Georgetown University Hospital and his team lifted the retina and carefully placed the telescope inside. This will magnify whatever Ann wants to see, and that image will reflect to the back of the eye.
Dr. Lustbader says, "It's designed for patients who are essentially blind from end-stage macular degeneration of the retina. "The idea of the telescope is to magnify the view so much that the blind spot becomes much smaller and they can make out the majority of someone's face, the majority of the TV screen, that type of thing."
The surgery is just the beginning. For the next few months, Ann has to train her eye muscles to use the bionic eye. She is learning how to focus on objects. She has these letters set up around the house to practice her new vision.
Montefusco says, "It's not an overnight thing, it's gonna be difficult which I know, but it's something that I wanted to do."
Not every patient with macular degeneration is a candidate for this procedure, they have to be put through a simulation test to see if their eye can adapt.
Patients are screened ahead of time to see if they will be able to actually adapt to the telescope. The telescope is only place in one eye, the other is used for peripheral vision. The procedure is available for patients over 75, and it is covered by Medicare.