Microindentation permits biomechanical characterization of small specimens of ocular tissues and demonstrates that although properties of periocular fatty tissues vary markedly by location, comparable bovine and human tissues behave similarly.
The authors applied a novel microindentation technique to characterize biomechanical properties of small ocular and orbital tissue specimens using the Hertzian viscoelastic formulation, which defines material viscoelasticity in terms of the contact pressure required to maintain deformation by a harder body.
They used a hard spherical indenter having 100 nm displacement and 100 μg force precision to impose small deformations on fresh bovine sclera, iris, crystalline lens, kidney fat, orbital pulley tissue, and orbital fatty tissue; normal human orbital fat, eyelid fat, and dermal fat; and orbital fat associated with thyroid eye disease. For each tissue, stress relaxation testing was performed using a range of ramp displacements. Results for single displacements were used to build quantitative Hertzian models that were, in turn, compared with behavior for other displacements. Findings in orbital tissues were correlated with quantitative histology.
Viscoelastic properties of small specimens of orbital and ocular tissues were reliably characterized over a wide range of rates and displacements by microindentation using the Hertzian formulation. Bovine and human orbital fatty tissues exhibited highly similar elastic and viscous behaviors, but all other orbital tissues exhibited a wide range of biomechanical properties. Stiffness of fatty tissues tissue depended strongly on the connective tissue content.
Relaxation testing by microindentation is a powerful method for characterization of time-dependent behaviors of a wide range of ocular and orbital tissues using small specimens, and provides data suitable to define finite element models of a wide range of tissue interactions.