Ocular outcomes evaluation in a 14-day head-down bed rest study

Giovanni Taibbi, Ronita L. Cromwell, Susana B. Zanello, Patrice O. Yarbough, Robert J. Ploutz-Snyder, Bernard F. Godley, Gianmarco Vizzeri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Introduction: We evaluated ocular outcomes in a 14-d head-down tilt (HDT) bed rest (BR) study designed to simulate the effects of microgravity on the human body. Methods: Healthy subjects were selected using NASA standard screening procedures. Standardized NASA BR conditions were implemented (e.g., strict sleep-wake cycle, standardized diet, 24-hour-a-day BR, continuous video monitoring). Subjects maintained a 6° HDT position for 14 consecutive days. Weekly ophthalmological examinations were performed in the sitting (pre/post-BR) and HDT (in-bed phase) positions. Equivalency tests with optimal-alpha techniques evaluated pre/post-BR differences in best-corrected visual acuity (BCVA), spherical equivalent, intraocular pressure (IOP), Spectral-domain OCT retinal nerve fiber layer thickness (RNFLT), optic disc and macular parameters. Results: 16 subjects (12 men and 4 women) were enrolled. Nearly all ocular outcomes were within our predefined clinically relevant thresholds following HDTBR, except near BCVA (pre/post-BR mean difference: -0.06 logMAR), spherical equivalent (-0.30 D), Tonopen XL IOP (+3.03 mmHg) and Spectralis OCT average (+1.14 m m), temporalinferior (+1.58 m m) and nasal-inferior RNFLT (+3.48 m m). Modified Amsler grid, red dot test, confrontational visual field, and color vision were within normal limits throughout. No changes were detected on stereoscopic color fundus photography. Discussion: A few functional and structural changes were detected after 14-d HDTBR, notably an improved BCVA possibly due to learning effect and RNFL thickening without signs of optic disc edema. In general, 6° HDTBR determined a small nonprogressive IOP elevation, which returned to baseline levels post- BR. Further studies with different BR duration and/or tilt angle are warranted to investigate microgravity-induced ophthalmological changes. Keywords: microgravity, intraocular pressure, retinal nerve fiber layer, optimal alpha.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)983-992
Number of pages10
JournalAviation Space and Environmental Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2014


  • Intraocular pressure
  • Microgravity
  • Optimal alpha
  • Retinal nerve fiber layer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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