Purpose: Methyl methacrylate vascular corrosion casting techniques were used to examine the normal anterior optic nerve microvasculature in 18 human eye bank eyes.
Methods: Selective cannulation of the central retinal artery, the short posterior ciliary arteries, or both, allowed the methyl methacrylate to be injected into the anterior optic nerve circulation. Preflushing with tissue plasminogen activator greatly enhanced the filling of the fine microvasculature by dissolving the intraluminal clots.
Results: The superficial nerve fiber layer of the optic nerve received its primary blood supply from the central retinal artery. In 11 of 13 eyes injected with methyl methacrylate through the short posterior ciliary arteries, there was a perineural, circular arterial anastomosis (circle of Zinn-Haller) at the scleral level. Branches from this circle penetrated the optic nerve to supply the prelaminar and laminar regions and the peripapillary choroid. In the two eyes without this arterial circle, direct branches from the short posterior ciliary arteries supplied the anterior optic nerve. The venous drainage of the anterior optic nerve was almost entirely through the central retinal vein and its tributaries.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that the main arterial vascular supply to the anterior optic nerve is from the short posterior ciliary arteries. The contribution of the peripapillary choroid to the anterior optic nerve is minimal in comparison to the direct contribution from the short posterior ciliary arteries.