Retinal Reattachment Restores Vision after 55 Years

More than five decades after his retina became detached when he was hit in the right eye with a stone, a man had his vision surgically restored in what is thought to be a medical first.

The patient was 8 when he was struck with a rock in the right eye, detaching his retina. Blind in that eye, the man went to the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary at age 63, complaining of pain in his right eye.

Doctors found bleeding, swelling and glaucoma. After treatment with monoclonal antibody therapy, the patient reported being able to detect light sources with his right eye. Encouraged, doctors recommended pursuing surgery to reattach the retina.

When the retina is detached from its blood supply, retinal cells can begin to die and impair vision. If a detached retina is not treated quickly, the retina can become permanently damaged and lead to blindness; when the retina is detached for an extended period, it’s typically impossible to restore sight with reattachment.

However, despite a 55-year gap between the incident that caused his vision loss and retinal reattachment surgery, the man’s sight was restored following the procedure. Doctors said restoring vision after such a lengthy period of retinal detachment was a first.

Although the patient required revision surgery a year later because scars in his eye were forcing the retina to separate again, the follow-up surgery was also successful. Doctors hope this bodes well for future research into restoring damaged retinas and retinal cells.

“This is not only a great result for our patient but has implications for restoring eyesight in other patients, especially in the context of stem cell research into retinal progenitor cells, which may be able to be transplanted into diseased retinas to restore vision,” said Dr. Olusa Olawoye in a June Journal of Medical Case Reports article.
If you would like to learn more about retinal detachment, please contact an ophthalmologist near you.