Did it work? Results of first bionic eye surgery in Houston

HOUSTON – Last month, KPRC was the only station to tell you about a new procedure that’s helping people see after they lose their vision.

Doctors now reveal whether or not their bionic eye procedure worked.

See the results only on KPRC 2 News.

The implant does not guarantee a complete reversal of vision loss, but instead it can help patients see light changes. This could help them do something as simple as decipher day from night or work their way around furniture. Which means patients don't have to be as dependent on other people.

The morning UT Health ophthalmologists, Amir Mohsenin and Garvin Davis with Memorial Hermann, activated the Argus® II Retinal Prosthesis System of Lidia Lopez, she saw light for the first time in 17 years.

In Spanish, doctors asked her if she could see where the light was. 

“Here! To the left,” she replied.

“It’s not much,” Lopez said in Spanish. "It looks like shadows, like silhouettes.”

That is the result doctors anticipated. They say her eyes will see differently now and she will have to learn to interpret images that are being captured by a camera on her glasses and transmitted to the implant in her eye. 

With practice, she’s expected to learn how to interpret objects and shapes.

“Ultimately, some of the best patients can help sort laundry from light to dark,” Dr. Garvin Davis said.

Right now, they say her field of vision is small, so she has to scan the room to get the full picture. After years of being in the dark, Lopez and her family is delighted.

“She saw the doctor's coat and I’m like, 'Wow!' That's like, that's like next level stuff! Alright, okay I see this. This is looking good!” her son, Carlos Alfredo Lopez, said.

“Even as software updates are made available, we can upgrade her device and get her seeing even better than she is,” Dr. Amir Mohsenin said.

However, this patient is not waiting around for technology to improve. Glasses help her focus her sight on independence and she’s already promising to work hard to get the most use out of her bionic eye.

“That's her world! That's what she sees and it's amazing. It's amazing to me,” Carlos Alfredo Lopez said.

Doctors said this invention may not help the most common forms of blindness (like macular degeneration). Lopez’s blindness is a result of a hereditary disease.

According to the National Institutes of Health, her disease (retinisis pigmentosa) affects about one in four thousand people. So, Houston doctors believe there is a demand for this procedure.