Changes in Optic Nerve Head and Retinal Morphology During Spaceflight and Acute Fluid Shift Reversal
Pardon LP, Macias BR, Ferguson CR, Greenwald SH, Ploutz-Snyder R, Alferova IV, Ebert D, Dulchavsky SA, Hargens AR, Stenger MB, and Laurie SS. Changes in Optic Nerve Head and Retinal Morphology During Spaceflight and Acute Fluid Shift Reversal. JAMA Ophthalmol 2022.
Importance: Countermeasures that reverse the headward fluid shift experienced in weightlessness have the potential to mitigate spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome. This study investigated whether use of the countermeasure lower-body negative pressure during spaceflight was associated with changes in ocular structure.
Objective: To determine whether changes to the optic nerve head and retina during spaceflight can be mitigated by brief in-flight application of 25-mm Hg lower-body negative pressure.
Design, Setting, and Participants: In the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's "Fluid Shifts Study," a prospective cohort study, optical coherence tomography scans of the optic nerve head and macula were obtained from US and international crew members before flight, in-flight, and up to 180 days after return to Earth. In-flight scans were obtained both under normal weightless conditions and 10 to 20 minutes into lower-body negative pressure exposure. Preflight and postflight data were collected in the seated, supine, and head-down tilt postures. Crew members completed 6- to 12-month missions that took place on the International Space Station. Data were analyzed from 2016 to 2021.
Interventions or Exposures: Spaceflight and lower-body negative pressure.
Main Outcomes and Measures: Changes in minimum rim width, optic cup volume, Bruch membrane opening height, peripapillary total retinal thickness, and macular thickness.
Results: Mean (SD) flight duration for the 14 crew members (mean [SD] age, 45  years; 11 male crew members [79%]) was 214 (72) days. Ocular changes on flight day 150, as compared with preflight seated, included an increase in minimum rim width (33.8 μm; 95% CI, 27.9-39.7 μm; P < .001), decrease in cup volume (0.038 mm3; 95% CI, 0.030-0.046 mm3; P < .001), posterior displacement of Bruch membrane opening (-9.0 μm; 95% CI, -15.7 to -2.2 μm; P = .009), and decrease in macular thickness (fovea to 500 μm, 5.1 μm; 95% CI, 3.5-6.8 μm; P < .001). Brief exposure to lower-body negative pressure did not affect these parameters.
Conclusions and Relevance: Results of this cohort study suggest that peripapillary tissue thickening, decreased cup volume, and mild central macular thinning were associated with long-duration spaceflight. Acute exposure to 25-mm Hg lower-body negative pressure did not alter optic nerve head or retinal morphology, suggesting that longer durations of a fluid shift reversal may be needed to mitigate spaceflight-induced changes and/or other factors are involved.
ePub ahead of print