Increased intraocular pressure and visual field defects in high resistance wind instrument players

Joel S. Schuman, Emma Craig Massicotte, Shannon Connolly, Ellen Hertzmark, Bhaskar Mukherji, Mandi Z. Kunen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: In this twofold study, part 1 aimed to determine whether the playing of high resistance wind instruments elevates intraocular pressure (IOP) and if so, to investigate the mechanism of IOP elevation and whether its magnitude differs while playing high resistance versus low resistance instruments. The purpose of part 2 was to evaluate whether high resistance players have a greater incidence of glaucomatous changes than other musicians. Design: Three case reports and a cross-sectional study. Participants: Two players of high resistance instruments and one player of high and low resistance wind instruments participated in part 1 of the study. Nine high resistance wind players, 12 low resistance wind players, and 24 nonwind players were recruited among professional musicians in the Boston area to participate in part 2. Intervention: In part 1, IOP and uveal thickness changes were measured by pneumatonometry and ultrasound biomicroscopy in two participants playing their high resistance wind instruments (trumpet and oboe) and in a third participant playing both high (trumpet) and low (clarinet and saxaphone) resistance instruments. Each musician in part 2 underwent medical and musical history, measurement of IOP, Humphrey visual field testing, slit-lamp examination, gonioscopy, and dilated examination. Main Outcome Measures: Intraocular pressure and uveal thickness changes, and visual field loss and optic nerve head appearance were the main parameters measured in part 1 and part 2, respectively. Results: In part 1, pneumatonometry showed IOP elevation dependent on the force of blowing, and ultrasound biomicroscopy revealed uveal thickening associated with IOP elevation. The magnitude of IOP elevation was dependent on the amount of expiratory resistance provided by the particular instrument. Part 2 showed that life hours of high resistance wind instrument playing had a significant relationship to abnormal visual field (P = 0.03) and corrected pattern standard deviation (CPSD) scores (P = 0.007) in univariate logistic regression and univariate linear regression, respectively. A 0.011 -unit increase in CPSD for each 1000 life hours of high resistance wind playing was found. Conclusions: High and low resistance wind musicians experience a transient rise in their IOP while playing their instruments as a result least in part of uveal engorgement. The magnitude of IOP increase is greater in high resistance wind players versus low resistance wind players. High resistance wind musicians had a small but significantly greater incidence of visual field loss (abnormal fields and increased CPSD scores) than other musicians, which was related to life hours of playing. The cumulative effects of long-term intermittent IOP elevation during high resistance wind instrument playing may result in glaucomatous damage, which could be misdiagnosed as normal-tension glaucoma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)127-133
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2000

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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