Unconventional aqueous humor outflow: A review

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Abstract

Aqueous humor flows out of the eye primarily through the conventional outflow pathway that includes the trabecular meshwork and Schlemm's canal. However, a fraction of aqueous humor passes through an alternative or ‘unconventional’ route that includes the ciliary muscle, supraciliary and suprachoroidal spaces. From there, unconventional outflow may drain through two pathways: a uveoscleral pathway where aqueous drains across the sclera to be resorbed by orbital vessels, and a uveovortex pathway where aqueous humor enters the choroid to drain through the vortex veins. We review the anatomy, physiology and pharmacology of these pathways. We also discuss methods to determine unconventional outflow rate, including direct techniques that use radioactive or fluorescent tracers recovered from tissues in the unconventional pathway and indirect methods that estimate unconventional outflow based on total outflow over a range of pressures. Indirect methods are subject to a number of assumptions and generally give poor agreement with tracer measurements. We review the variety of animal models that have been used to study conventional and unconventional outflow. The mouse appears to be a promising model because it captures several aspects of conventional and unconventional outflow dynamics common to humans, although questions remain regarding the magnitude of unconventional outflow in mice. Finally, we review future directions. There is a clear need to develop improved methods for measuring unconventional outflow in both animals and humans.

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