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Ian A. Sigal, John G. Flanagan, C. Ross Ethier; Factors Influencing Optic Nerve Head Biomechanics. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2005;46(11):4189-4199. doi: 10.1167/iovs.05-0541.
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purpose. The biomechanical environment within the optic nerve head (ONH) may play a role in retinal ganglion cell loss in glaucomatous optic neuropathy. This was a systematic analysis in which finite element methods were used to determine which anatomic and biomechanical factors most influenced the biomechanical response of the ONH to acute changes in IOP.
methods. Based on a previously described computational model of the eye, each of 21 input factors, representing the biomechanical properties of relevant ocular tissues, the IOP, and 14 geometric factors were independently varied. The biomechanical response of the ONH tissues was quantified through a set of 29 outcome measures, including peak and mean stress and strain within each tissue, and measures of geometric changes in ONH tissues. Input factors were ranked according to their aggregated influence on groups of outcome measures.
results. The five input factors that had the largest influence across all outcome measures were, in ranked order: stiffness of the sclera, radius of the eye, stiffness of the lamina cribrosa, IOP, and thickness of the scleral shell. The five least influential factors were, in reverse ranked order: retinal thickness, peripapillary rim height, cup depth, cup-to-disc ratio, and pial thickness. Factor ranks were similar for various outcome measure groups and factor ranges.
conclusions. The model predicts that ONH biomechanics are strongly dependent on scleral biomechanical properties. Acute deformations of ONH tissues, and the consequent high levels of neural tissue strain, were less strongly dependent on the action of IOP directly on the internal surface of the ONH than on the indirect effects of IOP on the sclera. This suggests that interindividual variations in scleral properties could be a risk factor for the development of glaucoma. Eye size and lamina cribrosa biomechanical properties also have a strong influence on ONH biomechanics.
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