The Biomechanical Response of the Eye, Face, and Orbit to Primary Blast Overpressure

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Virginia Tech


Combat-related blast injuries are occurring more frequently with the increased use of improvised explosive devices in current military conflicts. Though much research has focused on how the body responds to the relatively low loading rates associated with blunt trauma, little is known regarding the response of the body to the higher loading rates associated with blast trauma. While soldiers are surviving once-lethal blast events due to enhanced protective equipment, injuries such as those to the eye and face that were once considered inconsequential, can now be detrimental to long-term healthcare costs and quality of life. Although it is suggested primary blast overpressure (i.e., the shock wave) can cause severe eye injuries, there remains few empirical data in the literature that confirms this. Adding to this, there are currently no testing standards to assess the effectiveness of personal protective equipment during blast exposure. Expanding upon traditional research techniques within the field of injury biomechanics, the research in this dissertation focuses specifically on developing experimental and physical models of the eye, face, and orbit for blast overpressure exposure. Foremost, a porcine eye model is used to quantify eye injury risk from blast overpressure exposure. Subsequently, these biomechanical data are used to develop a physical model of the eye that can be used in lieu of cadaver specimens for blunt and blast loading. Lastly, military spectacles and goggles are examined for effectiveness at protecting the eye during blast exposure. Combined with detailed computer-aided design geometries, these data can be used to validate computational models of the eye, orbit, and face to blast loading. Results from these tests support one theory that shock waves may enter the skull through the orbit, alluding to future work that is essential to more fully understanding the physiological response of the brain and ocular motor system to blast exposure. Ultimately, the experimental methods and analysis techniques disseminated herein serve as a framework for future experimental work related to blast and other high-rate loading scenarios.



Eye, Injury, Blast