Microvasculature of the rat optic nerve head

John C. Morrison, Elaine C. Johnson, William O. Cepurna, Richard H.W. Funk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Purpose. To describe the arterial blood supply, capillary bed, and venous drainage of the rat optic nerve head. Methods. Ocular microvascular castings from 6 Wistar rats were prepared by injection of epoxy resin through the common carotid arteries. After polymerization, tissues were digested with 6 M KOH, and the castings washed, dried, and coated for scanning electron microscopy. Results. Immediately posterior to the globe, the ophthalmic artery trifurcates into the central retinal artery and two posterior ciliary arteries. The central retinal artery directly provides capillaries to the nerve fiber layer and only contributes to capillary beds in the neck of the nerve head. The remainder is supplied by branches of the posterior ciliary arteries that are analogous to the primate circle of Zinn-Haller. Arterioles arising from these branches supply the capillaries of the transitional, or laminar, region of the optic nerve head. These capillaries are continuous with those of the neck and retrobulbar optic nerve head. All optic nerve head capillaries drain into the central retinal vein and veins of the optic nerve sheath. A flat choroidal sinus communicates with the central retinal vein, the choriocapillaris, and with large veins of the optic nerve sheath. Conclusions. The microvasculature of the rat optic nerve head bears several similarities to that of the primate, with a centripetal blood supply from posterior ciliary arteries and drainage into the central retinal and optic nerve sheath veins. Association of nerve sheath veins with the choroid represents an important difference from the primate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1702-1709
Number of pages8
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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