Dynamic testing of regional viscoelastic behavior of canine sclera

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Intraocular pressure (IOP) fluctuations have gained recent clinical interest and thus warrant an understanding of how the sclera responds to dynamic mechanical insults. The objective of this study was to characterize the regional dynamic viscoelastic properties of canine sclera under physiological cyclic loadings. Scleral strips were excised from the anterior, equatorial, and posterior sclera in ten canine eyes. The dimensions of each strip were measured using a high resolution ultrasound imaging system. The strips were tested in a humidity chamber at approximately 37 °C using a Rheometrics Systems Analyzer. A cyclic strain input (0.25%, 1 Hz) was applied to the strips, superimposed upon pre-stresses corresponding to an IOP of 15, 25, and 45 mmHg. The cyclic stress output was recorded and the dynamic properties were calculated based on linear viscoelasticity. Uni-axial tensile tests were also performed on the same samples and the results were compared to those reported for human eyes. The results showed that the sclera’s resistance to dynamic loading increased significantly while the damping capability decreased significantly with increasing pre-stresses for all regions of sclera (P < 0.001). Anterior sclera appeared to have a significantly higher damping capability than equatorial and posterior sclera (P = 0.003 and 0.018, respectively). The secant modulus from uni-axial tensile tests showed a decreasing trend from anterior to posterior sclera, displaying a similar pattern as in the human eye. In conclusion, all scleral regions in the canine eyes exhibited an increased ability to resist and a decreased ability to dampen cyclic stress insults at increasing pre-stress (i.e., increasing steady-state IOP). The regional variation of the dynamic properties differed from those of uni-axial tensile tests. Dynamic testing may provide useful information to better understand the mechanical behavior of the sclera in response to dynamic IOP.

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