The Influence of Scleral Flap Thickness, Shape, and Sutures on Intraocular Pressure (IOP) and Aqueous Humor Flow Direction in a Trabeculectomy Model

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Abstract

Purpose:

Intraocular pressure and aqueous humor flow direction determined by the scleral flap immediately after trabeculectomy are critical determinants of the surgical outcome. We used a large-scale model to objectively measure the influence of flap thickness and shape, and suture number and position on pressure difference across the flap and flow of fluid underneath it.

Methods:

The model exploits the principle of dynamic and geometric similarity, so while dimensions were up to 30× greater than actual, the flow had similar properties. Scleral flaps were represented by transparent 0.8- and 1.6-mm-thick silicone sheets on an acrylic plate. Dyed 98% glycerin, representing the aqueous humor was pumped between the sheet and plate, and the equilibrium pressure measured with a pressure transducer. Image analysis based on the principle of dye dilution was performed using MATLAB software.

Results:

The pressure drop across the flap was larger with thinner flaps, due to reduced rigidity and resistance. Doubling the surface area of flaps and reducing the number of sutures from 5 to 3 or 2 also resulted in larger pressure drops. Flow direction was affected mainly by suture number and position, it was less toward the sutures and more toward the nearest free edge of the flap. Posterior flow of aqueous humor was promoted by placing sutures along the sides while leaving the posterior edge free.

Conclusion:

We demonstrate a new physical model which shows how changes in scleral flap thickness and shape, and suture number and position affect pressure and flow in a trabeculectomy.

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