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Andrew J. Feola, Jerry G. Myers, Julia Raykin, Lealem Mulugeta, Emily S. Nelson, Brian C. Samuels, C. Ross Ethier; Finite Element Modeling of Factors Influencing Optic Nerve Head Deformation Due to Intracranial Pressure. Invest. Ophthalmol. Vis. Sci. 2016;57(4):1901-1911. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.15-17573.
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Visual impairment and intracranial pressure (VIIP) syndrome is a health concern for long-duration spaceflight, and a proposed risk factor is elevation of intracranial pressure (ICP). Our goal was to use finite element modeling to simulate how elevated ICP and interindividual differences affect tissue deformation within the optic nerve head (ONH).
We considered three ICP conditions: the upright and supine position on earth and an elevated ICP assumed to occur in chronic microgravity. Within each condition we used Latin hypercube sampling to consider a range of pressures and ONH tissue mechanical properties, determining the influence of each input on the following outcome measures: peak strains in the prelaminar tissue, lamina cribrosa, and retrolaminar optic nerve. Elevated strains can alter cell phenotype and induce tissue remodeling.
Elevating ICP increased the strains in the retrolaminar optic nerve. Variations in IOP, ICP, and in optic nerve and lamina cribrosa stiffness had the strongest influence on strains within the ONH. We predicted that 5% to 47% of individuals in microgravity would experience peak strains in the retrolaminar optic nerve larger than expected on earth. Having a soft optic nerve or pia mater and elevated ICP were identified as risk factors for these “extreme” strains.
Intracranial pressure and mechanical properties of the ONH influence the risk for experiencing extreme strains in the retrolaminar optic nerve. These extreme strains may activate mechanosensitive cells that induce tissue remodeling and are a risk factor for the development of VIIP. Future studies must also consider variations in ONH anatomy.
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