The first commercial implants of the Argus II retinal prosthesis system, which received the US Food and Drug Administration approval in 2013, were performed at the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center.

Ultimate outcomes of the implantations will not be known for some period of time until the patients go through a period of rehab to train them on using the Argus II.

Second Sight obtained the FDA approval for Argus II in February 2013, after more than 20 years of research and development.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) authorized both a new technology add-on payment (inpatient setting of care) and a transitional pass-through payment (outpatient setting of care) for the Argus II in August 2013.

These temporary payments are intended to facilitate access to new technologies for Medicare beneficiaries.

Second Sight president and CEO Robert Greenberg noted this is a tremendous milestone, not only for Kellogg Eye Center and Second Sight, but also for those affected by RP in the US.

"We are pleased to have the first implants take place at such a nationally recognized and respected institution. This device is going to positively impact the lives of those suffering from RP by providing renewed visual capabilities, which can help improve daily functioning and activities," Dr Greenberg added.

The Argus II retinal prosthesis system is intended to restore some functional vision for people suffering from blindness. It works by converting video images captured by a miniature camera housed in the patient’s glasses into a series of small electrical pulses that are transmitted wirelessly to an array of electrodes on the surface of the retina.

These pulses are intended to stimulate the retina’s remaining cells resulting in the corresponding perception of patterns of light in the brain. The patient then learns to interpret these visual patterns thereby regaining some visual function.