An hypothesis on pressure transmission from anterior chamber to optic nerve

Rosana Gerometta, D. Escobar, Oscar A. Candia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Few studies have characterized how pressure in the anterior chamber (AC) of the eye is transmitted via the vitreous to the vitreous-ganglion cell interface. We are aware of only one study that simultaneously measured the pressures in the AC and vitreous humor; and of only one study that simultaneously measured the pressures in the AC and the suprachoroidal space (SCS). The pressure in the AC is defined as the intraocular pressure (IOP), which when elevated beyond statistically normal limits is a recognized risk factor for glaucoma, a malady best described as an optic neuropathy with degeneration and eventual death of the retinal ganglion cells (GC's) and highly characteristic changes in the optic nerve head (ONH). Most investigators currently believe that the prevalent risk factor for GC apoptosis is ocular hypertension, but no one has demonstrated how an increase in IOP in the AC is transmitted to the GC's. In patients with primary open angle glaucoma, the pressure in the AC increases due to an increase in the resistance of the trabecular meshwork (TM) outflow pathway. We questioned how such increased pressure in the AC would be transmitted to the GC to produce the changes in the ONH seen in glaucoma. Based on our preliminary data and purview of the literature, we hypothesize that a pressure increase originating in the AC is likely transmitted via both the SCS and the vitreous, with transmission via the former pathway probably most efficient in affecting the GC. Independently of the mechanism that produces GC apoptosis, the ones that are first affected, as repeatedly shown by visual field tests, are the most peripheral ones; i.e., those whose axons are the most external as they form the ONH and enter the lamina cribrosa. There are no published reports explaining this peculiarity. The dogma is that the pressure transmitted via the vitreous is higher at the periphery because it is transmitted across a shorter distance, since the vitreous acts as a buffer that absorbs part of the pressure being transmitted. We propose that IOP is not only transmitted via the vitreous but also via the SCS. Increases in IOP could be efficiently applied via the SCS to the most external axons of the ONH as they leave the eye. Our hypothesis can also explain low-tension glaucoma in which the most peripheral GC's are also affected first, because pressure is transmitted without decay due to a reduced uveoscleral (UVS) flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)827-831
Number of pages5
JournalMedical Hypotheses
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011


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