A mechanical model of retinal detachment

Tom Chou, Michael Siegel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We present a model of the mechanical and fluid forces associated with exudative retinal detachments where the retinal photoreceptor cells separate, typically from the underlying retinal pigment epithelium (RPE). By computing the total fluid volume flow arising from transretinal, vascular and RPE pump currents, we determine the conditions under which the subretinal fluid pressure exceeds the maximum yield stress holding the retina and RPE together, giving rise to an irreversible, extended retinal delamination. We also investigate localized, blister-like retinal detachments by balancing mechanical tension in the retina with both the retina-RPE adhesion energy and the hydraulic pressure jump across the retina. For detachments induced by traction forces, we find a critical radius beyond which the blister is unstable to growth. Growth of a detached blister can also be driven by inflamed lesions in which the tissue has a higher choroidal hydraulic conductivity, has insufficient RPE pump activity, or has defective adhesion bonds. We determine the parameter regimes in which the blister either becomes unstable to growth, remains stable and finite-sized, or shrinks, allowing possible healing. The corresponding stable blister radius and shape are calculated. Our analysis provides a quantitative description of the physical mechanisms involved in exudative retinal detachments and can help guide the development of retinal reattachment protocols or preventative procedures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number046001
JournalPhysical biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2012

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Structural Biology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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