Use and Misuse of Laplace's Law in Ophthalmology

Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 2016 Jan 1;57(1):236-45. doi: 10.1167/iovs.15-18053.


Purpose: Laplace's Law, with its compactness and simplicity, has long been employed in ophthalmology for describing the mechanics of the corneoscleral shell. We questioned the appropriateness of Laplace's Law for computing wall stress in the eye considering the advances in knowledge of ocular biomechanics.

Methods: In this manuscript we recapitulate the formulation of Laplace's Law, as well as common interpretations and uses in ophthalmology. Using numerical modeling, we study how Laplace's Law cannot account for important characteristics of the eye, such as variations in globe shape and size or tissue thickness, anisotropy, viscoelasticity, or that the eye is a living, dynamic organ.

Results: We show that accounting for various geometrical and material factors, excluded from Laplace's Law, can alter estimates of corneoscleral wall stress as much as 456% and, therefore, that Laplace's Law is unreliable.

Conclusions: We conclude by illustrating how computational techniques, such as finite element modeling, can account for the factors mentioned above, and are thus more suitable tools to provide quantitative characterization of corneoscleral biomechanics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mathematics / methods*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Ocular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Ophthalmology / methods*