Relationship of the distal optic nerve sheath to the circle of Zinn

Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 1999 Aug;237(8):642-7. doi: 10.1007/s004170050291.


Background: This study was designed to determine the relationship of the vascular circle of Zinn (CZ) and its branches to the termination of the subarachnoid space surrounding the optic nerve sheath, with particular reference to optic disc size.

Methods: Serial sections of 29 normal human optic nerves were performed at 6-microm intervals. The position of the CZ and subarachnoid space were measured with WILD Heerbrugg objective graticules. The results were analysed with reference to the optic disc size.

Results: The position of the CZ was variable but two major types were recognised. In type 1 the circle was located anterior to the distal sheath, and in type 2 posterior to the sheath. There were more small optic discs observed in type 2.

Conclusion: In this study the CZ was more posteriorly located in small optic discs. This location may induce risk factors contributing to the development of ischaemic optic neuropathy. The combination of small discs, posterior placement of the CZ, and anatomical variations in the vascular pattern may predispose to ischaemic events.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cadaver
  • Humans
  • Myelin Sheath*
  • Optic Disk / blood supply
  • Optic Disk / cytology
  • Optic Nerve / blood supply*
  • Optic Nerve / cytology*
  • Retinal Artery / anatomy & histology
  • Subarachnoid Space / cytology