For the first time in Russia, a retinal prosthesis was implanted in a deaf-blind patient on June 30. The successful completion of the surgery will not only help restore the patient's sight; it will introduce a new surgical method for treating blindness in Russia and develop new methods of rehabilitation. It will also pave the way for the localized production implants, which will help to reduce their cost.
At first, bionic eye systems will be bought from abroad for subsequent surgeries, but Russia plans to launch its own production, Yakovleva said at the press conference.
According to Dmitry Polikanov, the president of Russia's Deaf-blind Support Fund So-edinenie (Connection), the first operation to introduce a bionic eye cost about ten million rubles (over US $166,000). In some countries, such surgeries are covered by health insurance, which is why their cost started to decrease.
While the operation itself costs about 150,000 rubles (US $2,500), the visual prosthesis' price makes up most of the sum. The retinal prosthesis Argus II, one of the most modern and advanced bionic eye systems developed in recent years, costs about US $140,000.
Retinal prosthesis implantations are currently conducted on those patients who were originally able to see but then lost their sight; however, in the future, such operations will be applied to those who were blind from birth, the Deputy Minister of Healthcare of Russia said.
She also added that Russia will have to clinically test the technology, which will take one to three years.
"The application for clinical approbation has already been drawn up; after the confirmation of medical and economic efficiency, this kind of surgery will be included in the list of high-tech medical aid will be carried out at the expense of country's budget," Yakovleva noted.
Polikanov added that the next bionic eye implantation in Russia could be conducted in the fall.