Today scientists and physicians at Emory Eye Center announced they are the first in the Georgia to offer patients a new computer-based technology that may improve portions of vision lost to stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other brain diseases. The treatment, NovaVision Vision Restoration Therapy (VRT¿), was developed by NovaVision, Inc. and cleared for marketing by the U.S. Food and Drug administration in April 2003.
Approximately 1.5 million stroke and traumatic brain injury (TBI) victims in the United States suffer from major visual field deficits that have historically been considered untreatable. This number increases by more than 90,000 new sufferers each year.
VRT is based on the principle of neuroplasticity - the ability of partially damaged neurons in the brain to compensate for injury and adjust their activity in response to stimulation from the environment. After stroke or TBI, a zone of residual vision exists between regions within the brain's vision-processing areas. Within this zone, there are areas that can be improved using precise patterns of light stimulation.
Following a clinical assessment and diagnosis at Emory Eye Center, VRT is performed by patients at home with a specially designed computerized device. With the patient's eyes focused on a fixation point displayed on the screen, specifically engineered stimuli are applied to the identified areas that show potential for recovery. Repeated exposure to these stimuli over a period of six months activates neurons and helps improve vision. Clinical results of VRT are positive: 65 percent of more than 500 patients who underwent VRT for an initial six month treatment period showed measurable improvements in their vision.
"Emory Eye Center is excited to be one of the first institutions in the country and the first in Georgia to bring VRT to patients and to address this critical, unmet rehabilitation need," said Nancy J. Newman, MD, head of the Neuro-Ophthalmology service at Emory Eye Center in Atlanta. "It was once thought that after a period of residual recovery, improvement in visual function ended. With this innovative, practical application of neuroplasticity, we now have the potential to provide improved vision and quality of life for many stroke and TBI patients."
VRT and the Fourth Pillar of Rehabilitation
While speech, physical and occupational therapy have been established for many years as mainstream treatment regimens for victims of stroke and brain trauma, VRT is the first clinical application of rehabilitation for vision loss. Originally developed by Dr. Bernhard Sabel and perfected in clinical studies conducted throughout the 1990's at the University of Magdeburg in Germany, VRT enables stoke and TBI patients to restore an area of function that dramatically improves their quality of life.
Emory Eye Center is offering VRT today. The cost of VRT is established by each NovaVision partner clinic. Medicare may cover certain office visits and initial costs. Patients and physicians interested in learning more about VRT and who is a potentially eligible candidate for the therapy can call 888.205.0800 or visit www.novavisiontherapy.com for additional information.