Imaging in spaceflight associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS): Current technology and future directions in modalities

Benjamin Soares, Joshua Ong, Ethan Waisberg, Prithul Sarker, Nasif Zaman, Alireza Tavakkoli, Andrew G. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


With plans for future long-duration crewed exploration, NASA has identified several high priority potential health risks to astronauts in space. One such risk is a collection of neurologic and ophthalmic findings termed spaceflight associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS). The findings of SANS include optic disc edema, globe flattening, retinal nerve fiber layer thickening, chorioretinal folds, hyperopic shifts, and cotton-wool spots. The cause of SANS was initially thought to be a cephalad fluid shift in microgravity leading to increased intracranial pressure, venous stasis and impaired CSF outflow, but the precise etiology of SANS remains ill defined. Recent studies have explored multiple possible pathogenic mechanisms for SANS including genetic and hormonal factors; a cephalad shift of fluid into the orbit and brain in microgravity; and disruption to the brain glymphatic system. Orbital, ocular, and cranial imaging, both on Earth and in space has been critical in the diagnosis and monitoring of SANS (e.g., fundus photography, optical coherence tomography (OCT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and orbital/cranial ultrasound). In addition, we highlight near-infrared spectroscopy and diffusion tensor imaging, two newer modalities with potential use in future studies of SANS. In this manuscript we provide a review of these modalities, outline their current and potential use in space and on Earth, and review the reported major imaging findings in SANS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-46
Number of pages7
JournalLife Sciences in Space Research
StatePublished - Aug 2024


  • Fundus photography
  • Imaging
  • Microgravity
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Spaceflight associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiation
  • Ecology
  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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