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Ophthalmology. 1997 May;104(5):869-77.

High resolution magnetic resonance imaging of neurovascular orbital anatomy.

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Department of Orthoptics, General Hospital, St. Pölten, Austria.



This study describes the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) anatomy of the blood vessels and nerves of the orbit to provide a morphological basis for the interpretation of clinical findings.


Seven volunteers aged 29 to 54 years underwent high-resolution MRI of the orbit on a 1 Tesla unit (Impact, Siemens, Germany). T1-weighted oblique-sagittal, coronal, and axial images were obtained using a surface coil. Anatomic structures on the magnetic resonance images were identified by comparison with corresponding histologic sections of the orbit.


The ophthalmic artery and most of its branches (central retinal artery, posterior ciliary arteries, lacrimal artery, anterior and posterior ethmoidal arteries, supratrochlear artery, supraorbital artery, dorsal nasal artery) are visualized. The superior ophthalmic vein, the lacrimal vein, the medial ophthalmic vein, the inferior ophthalmic vein, the medial and lateral collateral veins, and the vorticose veins are also delineated. Furthermore, branches of the oculomotor nerve, the abducens nerve, the frontal nerve, the nasociliary nerve, the lacrimal nerve and the infraorbital nerve are identified in the magnetic resonance images.


High-resolution MRI is capable of delineating the orbital arteries, veins, and nerves. This is mainly based on two principles. First, blood vessels appear mostly dark on magnetic resonance images because of the signal void of flowing blood. Second, the bright background of the orbital fat on T1-weighted magnetic resonance images accounts for the good soft-tissue contrast in the orbit. With improved MRI technology and reduced imaging time, high-resolution-MRI may be applied routinely for diagnostic purposes.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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