Intraocular currents, Bernoulli's principle and non-drainage scleral buckling for rhegmatogenous retinal detachment

14 Feb 2018

For many years, it is not fully understood how non-drainage scleral buckling surgery brings about spontaneous reattachment of the detached retina when retinal breaks remain open at the end of surgery. Various explanations have been put forward, but none more interesting than the effect of fluid currents associated with eye movements. One such explanation involved the physics of the Bernoulli’s principle. Daniel Bernoulli was an eighteenth century Swiss mathematician and he described an equation based on the conservation of energy. The sum of pressure energy, potential energy and kinetic energy remains constant. Bernoulli’s equation usually applies to closed system such as the flow of fluid through pipes. When fluid flows through a constriction, the speed of fluid increases, the kinetic energy increases. If there was no change in elevation (potential energy), the increase in kinetic energy must be accompanied by a decrease in pressure energy. In ophthalmic surgery, the Bernoulli’s effect is the basis for venturi pumps that drive vitrectomy and phacoemulsification machines. This essay expounds on how Bernoulli’s effect might be relevant to scleral buckling for retinal detachment repair. In the era when vitrectomy is increasing the primary surgical operation for retinal detachment, the pervasive advice is to emphasise the importance of patient adopting head posture and remaining still postoperatively. The exception is non-drainage scleral buckling surgery. Early postoperative mobilisation may be vital to achieve reattachment.