Thermal safety of ultrasound-enhanced ocular drug delivery: A modeling study




Delivery of sufficient amounts of therapeutic drugs into the eye for treatment of various ocular diseases is often a challenging task. Ultrasound was shown to be effective in enhancing ocular drug delivery in the authors’ previous in vitro and in vivo studies.


The study reported here was designed to investigate the safety of ultrasound application and its potential thermal effects in the eye using PZFlex modeling software. The safety limit in this study was set as a temperature increase of no more than 1.5 °C based on regulatory recommendations and previous experimental safety studies. Acoustic and thermal specifications of different human eye tissues were obtained from the published literature. The tissues of particular interest in this modeling safety study were cornea, lens, and the location of optic nerve in the posterior eye. Ultrasound application was modeled at frequencies of 400 kHz–1 MHz, intensities of 0.3–1 W/cm2, and exposure duration of 5 min, which were the parameters used in the authors’ previous drug delivery experiments. The baseline eye temperature was 37 °C.


The authors’ results showed that the maximal tissue temperatures after 5 min of ultrasound application were 38, 39, 39.5, and 40 °C in the cornea, 39.5, 40, 42, and 43 °C in the center of the lens, and 37.5, 38.5, and 39 °C in the back of the eye (at the optic nerve location) at frequencies of 400, 600, 800 kHz, and 1 MHz, respectively.


The ocular temperatures reached at higher frequencies were considered unsafe based on current recommendations. At a frequency of 400 kHz and intensity of 0.8 W/cm2 (parameters shown in the authors’ previous in vivo studies to be optimal for ocular drug delivery), the temperature increase was small enough to be considered safe inside different ocular tissues. However, the impact of orbital bone and tissue perfusion should be included in future modeling efforts to determine the safety of this method in the whole orbit especially regarding potential adverse optic nerve heating at the location of the bone.