Magnetic implants used to treat ‘dancing eyes’

A research team has successfully used magnets implanted behind a person’s eyes to treat nystagmus, a condition which causes involuntary eye movements.

Professor Geoff Rose and Mr David Verity, consultant ophthalmologists at Moorfields, in collaboration with UCL and University of Oxford research teams, led the study which is the first description of a successful use of an implant that controls eye movement.

Nystagmus involves a flickering of the eyes, and is sometimes called ‘dancing eyes'. The condition affects close to one in 400 people and can cause reduced visual acuity.

The patient who underwent the procedure developed nystagmus in his late 40s due to Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which greatly impacted on his life, including loss of employment. His difficulties prompted the research team to investigate the use of a prosthesis which had previously only been described theoretically.

The research team developed a prosthesis involving one magnet which is implanted on the bone at the bottom of the eye socket, interacting with a smaller magnet attached to one of the eye muscles which control its movement.

The patient recovered quickly from two procedures. Testing showed that his overall visual acuity was substantially improved, and there has been no negative impact on his functional range of movement. Over four years of follow-up reports, the patient’s symptoms have remained stable and he has managed to return to paid employment and reports substantial improvement in daily activities such as reading and watching television.

The research team is currently recruiting for a larger study, led by Professor Rose, and funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). 

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