Effects of intracranial trochlear neurectomy on the structure of the primate superior oblique muscle

Joseph L. Demer, Vadims Poukens, Howard Ying, Xiaoyan Shan, Jing Tian, David S. Zee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Purpose. Although cyclovertical strabismus in humans is frequently attributed to superior oblique (SO) palsy, anatomic effects of SO denervation have not been studied. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and orbital histology was used to study the effects of acute trochlear (CN4) denervation on the monkey SO. Methods. Five juvenile macaque monkeys were perfused with formalin for 5 weeks: 15 months after unilateral or bilateral 10-mm intracranial trochlear neurectomy. Denervated and fellow orbits were imaged by MRI, embedded whole in paraffin, serially sectioned at 10-μm thickness, and stained with Masson trichrome. Whole muscle and individual fiber cross sections were quantified in SO muscles throughout the orbit and traced larger fibers in one specimen where they were present. Results. MRI demonstrated marked reduction in midorbital cross section in denervated SO muscles, with anterior shift of SO mass preserving overall volume. Muscle fibers exhibited variable atrophy along their lengths. Denervated orbital layer (OL) fiber cross sections were slightly but significantly reduced from control at most anteroposterior locations, but this reduction was much more profound in global layer (GL) fibers. Intraorbital and intramuscular CN4 were uniformly fibrotic. In one animal, there were scattered clusters of markedly hypertrophic GL fibers that exhibited only sparse myomyous junctions only anteriorly. Conclusions. CN4 denervation produces predominantly SO GL atrophy with relative OL sparing. Overall midorbital SO atrophy was evident by MRI as early as 5 weeks after denervation, as denervated SO volume shifted anteriorly. Occasional GL fiber hypertrophy suggests that at least some SO fibers extend essentially the full muscle length after trochlear neurectomy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3485-3495
Number of pages11
JournalInvestigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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