Whole-globe biomechanics using high-field MRI

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The eye is a complex structure composed of several interconnected tissues acting together, across the whole globe, to resist deformation due to intraocular pressure (IOP). However, most work in the ocular biomechanics field only examines the response to IOP over smaller regions of the eye. We used high-field MRI to measure IOP induced ocular displacements and deformations over the whole globe. Seven sheep eyes were obtained from a local abattoir and imaged within 48 h using MRI at multiple levels of IOP. IOP was controlled with a gravity perfusion system and a cannula inserted into the anterior chamber. T2-weighted imaging was performed to the eyes serially at 0 mmHg, 10 mmHg, 20 mmHg and 40 mmHg of IOP using a 9.4 T MRI scanner. Manual morphometry was conducted using 3D visualization software to quantify IOP-induced effects at the globe scale (e.g. axial length and equatorial diameters) or optic nerve head scale (e.g. canal diameter, peripapillary sclera bowing). Measurement sensitivity analysis was conducted to determine measurement precision. High-field MRI revealed an outward bowing of the posterior sclera and anterior bulging of the cornea due to IOP elevation. Increments in IOP from 10 to 40 mmHg caused measurable increases in axial length in 6 of 7 eyes of 7.9 ± 5.7% (mean ± SD). Changes in equatorial diameter were minimal, 0.4 ± 1.2% between 10 and 40 mmHg, and in all cases less than the measurement sensitivity. The effects were nonlinear, with larger deformations at normal IOPs (10–20 mmHg) than at elevated IOPs (20–40 mmHg). IOP also caused measurable increases in the nasal-temporal scleral canal diameter of 13.4 ± 9.7% between 0 and 20 mmHg, but not in the superior-inferior diameter. This study demonstrates that high-field MRI can be used to visualize and measure simultaneously the effects of IOP over the whole globe, including the effects on axial length and equatorial diameter, posterior sclera displacement and bowing, and even changes in scleral canal diameter. The fact that the equatorial diameter did not change with IOP, in agreement with previous studies, indicates that a fixed boundary condition is a reasonable assumption for half globe inflation tests and computational models. Our results demonstrate the potential of high-field MRI to contribute to understanding ocular biomechanics, and specifically of the effects of IOP in large animal models.

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