Effects of 30-day head-down bed rest on ocular: Structures and visual function in a healthy subject

Giovanni Taibbi, Kevin Kaplowitz, Ronita L. Cromwell, Bernard F. Godley, Susana B. Zanello, Gianmarco Vizzeri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Introduction: We report ocular changes occurring in a healthy human subject enrolled in a bed rest (BR) study designed to replicate the effects of a low-gravity environment. Case Report: A 25-yr-old Caucasian man spent 30 consecutive days in a 6° head-down tilt (HDT) position at the NASA Flight Analogs Research Unit. Comprehensive ophthalmologic exams, optic disc stereo-photography, standard automated perimetry (SAP), and optic disc Spectralis OCT scans were performed at baseline, immediately post-BR (BR +0), and 6 mo post-BR. Main outcome measures: changes in best-corrected visual acuity, intraocular pressure (IOP), cycloplegic refraction, SAP, and Spectralis OCT measures. At BR +0 IOP was 11 and 10 mmHg in the right (OD) and left eye (OS), respectively (a bilateral 4-mmHg decrease compared to baseline); SAP documented a possible bilateral symmetrical inferior scotoma; Spectralis OCT showed an average 19.4 μm (+ 5.2%) increase in peripapillary retinal thickness, and an average 0.03 mm3 (+ 5.0%) increase in peripapillary retinal volume bilaterally. However, there were no clinically detectable signs of optic disc edema. At 6 mo post-BR, IOP was 13 and 14 mmHg in OD and OS, respectively, and the scotoma had resolved. Spectralis OCT measurements matched the ones recorded at baseline. Discussion: In this subject, a reduction in IOP associated with subtle structural and functional changes compared to baseline were documented after prolonged head-down BR. These changes may be related to cephalad fl uid shifts in response to tilt. Further studies should clarify whether decreased translaminar pressure (i.e., the difference between IOP and intracranial pressure) may be responsible for these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-154
Number of pages7
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


  • Intraocular pressure
  • Microgravity
  • Optic disc swelling
  • Spectraldomain OCT
  • Translaminar pressure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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