The pressure difference between eye and brain changes with posture

Anders Eklund*, Gauti Jóhannesson, Elias Johansson, Petter Holmlund, Sara Qvarlander, Khalid Ambarki, Anders Wåhlin, Lars Owe D. Koskinen, Jan Malm

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The discovery of a posture-dependent effect on the difference between intraocular pressure (IOP) and intracranial pressure (ICP) at the level of lamina cribrosa could have important implications for understanding glaucoma and idiopathic intracranial hypertension and could help explain visual impairments in astronauts exposed to microgravity. The aim of this study was to determine the postural influence on the difference between simultaneously measured ICP and IOP. Methods: Eleven healthy adult volunteers (age = 46 ± 10 years) were investigated with simultaneous ICP, assessed through lumbar puncture, and IOP measurements when supine, sitting, and in 9° head-down tilt (HDT). The trans–lamina cribrosa pressure difference (TLCPD) was calculated as the difference between the IOP and ICP. To estimate the pressures at the lamina cribrosa, geometrical distances were estimated from magnetic resonance imaging and used to adjust for hydrostatic effects. Results: The TLCPD (in millimeters of mercury) between IOP and ICP was 12.3 ± 2.2 for supine, 19.8 ± 4.6 for sitting, and 6.6 ± 2.5 for HDT. The expected 24-hour average TLCPD on earth—assuming 8 hours supine and 16 hours upright—was estimated to be 17.3mmHg. By removing the hydrostatic effects on pressure, a corresponding 24-hour average TLCPD in microgravity environment was simulated to be 6.7mmHg. Interpretation: We provide a possible physiological explanation for how microgravity can cause symptoms similar to those seen in patients with elevated ICP. The observed posture dependency of TLCPD also implies that assessment of the difference between IOP and ICP in upright position may offer new understanding of the pathophysiology of idiopathic intracranial hypertension and glaucoma. Ann Neurol 2016;80:269–276.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-276
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Neurology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016

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© 2016 American Neurological Association


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