Gravitational effects on intraocular pressure and ocular perfusion pressure. Academic Article uri icon


  • Changes in the gravitational vector by postural changes or weightlessness induce fluid shifts, impacting ocular hemodynamics and regional pressures. This investigation explores the impact of changes in the direction of the gravitational vector on intraocular pressure (IOP), mean arterial pressure at eye level (MAPeye), and ocular perfusion pressure (OPP), which is critical for ocular health. Thirteen subjects underwent 360 of tilt (including both prone and supine positions) at 15 increments. At each angle, steady-state IOP and MAPeye were measured, and OPP calculated as MAPeye - IOP. Experimental data were also compared to a six-compartment lumped-parameter model of the eye. Mean IOP, MAPeye, and OPP significantly increased from 0 supine to 90 head-down tilt (HDT) by 20.71.7 mmHg (P < 0.001), 38.54.1 mmHg (P < 0.001), and 17.43.2 mmHg (P < 0.001), respectively. Head-up tilt (HUT) significantly decreased OPP by 16.52.5 mmHg (P < 0.001). IOP was significantly higher in prone versus supine position for much of the tilt range. Our study indicates that OPP is highly gravitationally dependent. Specifically, data show that MAPeye is more gravitationally dependent than IOP, thus causing OPP to increase during HDT and to decrease during HUT. In addition, IOP was elevated in prone position compared with supine position due to the additional hydrostatic column between the base of the rostral globe to the mid-coronal plane, supporting the notion that hydrostatic forces play an important role in ocular hemodynamics. Changes in OPP as a function of changes in gravitational stress and/or weightlessness may play a role in the pathogenesis of spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Maintaining appropriate ocular perfusion pressure (OPP) is critical for ocular health. We measured the relative changes in intraocular and mean arterial pressures during 360 tilt and calculated OPP, which was elevated during head-down tilt and decreased during head-up tilt. Experimental data are also explained by our computational model. We demonstrate that OPP is more gravitationally dependent than previously recognized and may be a factor in the overall patho-etiology behind the weightlessness-induced spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome.

published proceedings

  • J Appl Physiol (1985)

altmetric score

  • 16.15

author list (cited authors)

  • Petersen, L. G., Whittle, R. S., Lee, J. H., Sieker, J., Carlson, J., Finke, C., ... Diaz-Artiles, A.

citation count

  • 2

complete list of authors

  • Petersen, Lonnie G||Whittle, Richard S||Lee, Justin H||Sieker, Jeremy||Carlson, Joseph||Finke, Colton||Shelton, Cody M||Petersen, Johan CG||Diaz-Artiles, Ana

publication date

  • January 2022