Optic Nerve Sheath Viscoelastic Properties: Re-Examination of Biomechanical Behavior and Clinical Implications

Matthew Luchette*, Knut Helmke, Iscander M. Maissan, Hans Christian Hansen, Robert Jan Stolker, Robert C. Tasker, Alireza Akhondi-Asl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Meta-analyses show a variable relationship between optic nerve sheath diameter (ONSD) and the presence of raised intracranial pressure (ICP). Because optic nerve sheath (ONS) tissue can be deformed, it is possible that ONSD reflects not only the current ICP but also prior deforming biomechanical exposures. In this post hoc analysis of two published data sets, we characterize ONS Young’s modulus (E, mechanical stress per unit of strain) and calculate threshold pressure for plastic deformation. Methods: The authors of two previously published articles contributed primary data for these unique post hoc analyses. Human cadaveric ex vivo measurements of ONSD (n = 10) and luminal distending pressure (range 5 to 65 mm Hg) were used to calculate E and the threshold pressure for plastic deformation. Clinical in vivo measurements of ONSD and ICP during endotracheal tube suction from patients with traumatic brain injury (n = 15) were used to validate the ex vivo cadaveric findings. Results: Ex vivo ONS estimate of E was 140 ± 1.3 mm Hg (mean ± standard error), with evidence of plastic deformation occurring with distending pressure at 45 mm Hg. Similar E (71 ± 10 mm Hg) was estimated in vivo with an average ICP of 34 ± 2 mm Hg. Conclusions: Ex vivo, ONS plastic deformation occurs at levels of pressure commonly seen in patients with raised ICP, leading to distortion of the ICP–ONSD relationship. This evidence of plastic deformation may illustrate why meta-analyses fail to identify a single threshold in ONSD associated with the presence of raised ICP. Future studies characterizing time-dependent viscous characteristics of the ONS will help determine the time course of ONS tissue biomechanical behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-189
Number of pages6
JournalNeurocritical Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

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© 2022, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature and Neurocritical Care Society.


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