Magnetic Oculomotor Prosthetics for Acquired Nystagmus.
Nachev P., Rose GE., Verity DH., Manohar SG., MacKenzie K., Adams G., Theodorou M., Pankhurst QA., Kennard C.
PURPOSE: Acquired nystagmus, a highly symptomatic consequence of damage to the substrates of oculomotor control, often is resistant to pharmacotherapy. Although heterogeneous in its neural cause, its expression is unified at the effector-the eye muscles themselves-where physical damping of the oscillation offers an alternative approach. Because direct surgical fixation would immobilize the globe, action at a distance is required to damp the oscillation at the point of fixation, allowing unhindered gaze shifts at other times. Implementing this idea magnetically, herein we describe the successful implantation of a novel magnetic oculomotor prosthesis in a patient. DESIGN: Case report of a pilot, experimental intervention. PARTICIPANT: A 49-year-old man with longstanding, medication-resistant, upbeat nystagmus resulting from a paraneoplastic syndrome caused by stage 2A, grade I, nodular sclerosing Hodgkin's lymphoma. METHODS: We designed a 2-part, titanium-encased, rare-earth magnet oculomotor prosthesis, powered to damp nystagmus without interfering with the larger forces involved in saccades. Its damping effects were confirmed when applied externally. We proceeded to implant the device in the patient, comparing visual functions and high-resolution oculography before and after implantation and monitoring the patient for more than 4 years after surgery. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: We recorded Snellen visual acuity before and after intervention, as well as the amplitude, drift velocity, frequency, and intensity of the nystagmus in each eye. RESULTS: The patient reported a clinically significant improvement of 1 line of Snellen acuity (from 6/9 bilaterally to 6/6 on the left and 6/5-2 on the right), reflecting an objectively measured reduction in the amplitude, drift velocity, frequency, and intensity of the nystagmus. These improvements were maintained throughout a follow-up of 4 years and enabled him to return to paid employment. CONCLUSIONS: This work opens a new field of implantable therapeutic devices-oculomotor prosthetics-designed to modify eye movements dynamically by physical means in cases where a purely neural approach is ineffective. Applied to acquired nystagmus refractory to all other interventions, it is shown successfully to damp pathologic eye oscillations while allowing normal saccadic shifts of gaze.