The possibility of using retina implants ('retinal prostheses') for the restoration of basic orientation in blind patients suffering from distal retinal diseases is presently under investigation by at least 18 independent project groups worldwide. It is a common feature of all implants to bypass degenerated retinal layers and to transfer visual information into the retinal network either by direct electrical stimulation or by neurotransmitter release. Contemporary implant designs are differing in the position of stimulating electrodes (epiretinal, subretinal, external) and the anatomical arrangement of implant components (intraocular, extraocular). The latter is of high relevance with regard to possible implant-tissue interactions and biological reactions. During the last few years new types of implants appeared that reduce intraocular components which are now deposited on the outer scleral surface or even in extraorbital position. The extreme of this trend are completely extraocular implants with transchoroidal or extraocular stimulation of the retina. The new type of implant presented in this paper combines the principle of direct retinal stimulation and minimal invasive implantation in a way that stimulating electrodes are the only implant component penetrating the eye via sclera, choroid and retinal pigment epithelium. All other device elements are positioned in extraocular position. The new concept necessitates a paradigmatic change about surgical handling of the choroid and multiple penetrations of the eye. Successful data about this type of retinal prosthesis are already available from long-term observation in non-human primates.
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