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Optical coherence tomography (OCT) has emerged as the technique of choice in measuring the retinal nerve fibre layer (RNFL) quantitatively. It is suggested that RNFL reduction may correlate with lesion burden and diffuse axonal degeneration in the whole CNS of patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). However, RNFL changes because of optic neuritis (ON) must be taken into account.Twenty-three patients with acute ON (46 eyes) associated with clinical definite MS (23 ON eyes, 23 fellow eyes) and 23 sex- and age-matched healthy controls were studied. Retinal nerve fibre layer thickness (RNFLT) was measured at baseline, using a high-resolution spectral domain OCT (SD-OCT) applying circular, peripapillary OCT scans with a novel eye-tracking mechanism.The internal OCT software was able to identify RNFL atrophy in three out of five of the acute ON eyes and one out of four of the fellow eyes with previous ON episodes. Retinal nerve fibre layer thickness of two ON (8.7%) and five fellow eyes (21.7%) was overestimated, thus located within the 95% and 5% confidence interval of the company standard values (not marked pathologic). In contrast, our comparison with age- and sex-matched controls revealed RNFL atrophy suggestive of prior, clinically silent RNFL loss in ON and fellow eyes (30.4%).Retinal nerve fibre layer thickness measurements at a single time-point seem to have a limited role in detecting prior clinically silent optic nerve injury. Our data suggest that affected eyes should be compared with the fellow eyes and a sufficient number of age- and sex-matched controls to allow the detection of even subtle RNFL changes at baseline. The role of OCT for disease monitoring of MS must be evaluated in detail, as ON is often the initial symptom of MS.