Oxygen tension in the rabbit lens and vitreous before and after vitrectomy

Exp Eye Res. 2004 May;78(5):917-24. doi: 10.1016/j.exer.2004.01.003.


Oxygen is believed to be one of the potential causative agents for the development of nuclear cataract following vitrectomy. The aim of this study was to determine the partial pressure of oxygen (pO2) in different compartments of the rabbit eye, and to describe the changes following vitrectomy. Twenty-six rabbits (3.5-5.3 kg) were anesthetized and oxygen tension was probed using a fiber-optic oxygen sensor system (optode). A micromanipulator was employed to ascertain the exact position of the probe within the eye. Measurements were taken pre- and post-vitrectomy at several defined positions within the vitreous, the lens and the anterior chamber. Follow-up measurements were performed 2 and 8 weeks after vitrectomy. The contralateral eye served as a control. Measurements in the normal rabbit eye showed that oxygen tension in the globe is asymmetrical with the lowest pO2 in the nucleus of the lens (10.4 mmHg+/-3.0). The region of the lens near the posterior capsule has an oxygen tension close to the values of the vitreous directly behind the posterior capsule (12.4 mmHg+/-3.1). The highest pO2 within the posterior compartment of the eye was measured close to the retinal surface (40-l60 mmHg) depending on neighboring large vessels. The tension drops off rapidly to 20 mmHg some 0.5 mm from the retina. From that position to the posterior surface of the lens there is a shallow gradient of decreasing pO2. Immediately following vitrectomy the pO2 in the BSS replacement varied from ca. 90-140 mmHg, and decreased over approximately 30 min. to levels that were 2-3 times that of normal vitreous. Two weeks after vitrectomy the pO2 values in the lens were 2-3 times as high as in the control eye (p < 0.05). In addition there is no longer a gradient in the vitreous cavity, except close to the retina. Eight weeks after vitrectomy, pO2 levels in the lens were decreased but still remained higher than in the normal eye (13.83 mmHg+/-0.02). The pO2 gradient in the vitreous was not detectable anymore. Overall the results provide evidence that oxygen levels in the lens increase significantly after vitrectomy in rabbits. If this occurs in humans it may contribute to cataract formation following surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Lens Nucleus, Crystalline / metabolism
  • Lens, Crystalline / metabolism*
  • Oxygen / metabolism*
  • Partial Pressure
  • Postoperative Period
  • Rabbits
  • Vitrectomy*
  • Vitreous Body / metabolism*


  • Oxygen