Axonal loss from acute optic neuropathy documented by scanning laser polarimetry

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Background/aims: Retinal nerve fibre layer analysis by scanning laser polarimetry has been shown to facilitate diagnosis of glaucoma while its role in glaucoma follow up is still unclear. A major difficulty is the slow reduction of retinal nerve fibre layer thickness in glaucomatous optic neuropathy. Eyes of patients were studied after acute retrobulbar optic nerve lesion in order to evaluate the usefulness of scanning laser polarimetry in documenting retinal nerve fibre layer loss over time.Methods: Five patients who suffered severe retrobulbar optic neuropathy have had repeated measurements of the retinal nerve fibre layer using scanning laser polarimetry at various intervals, the first examination being within 1 week of injury.Results: All eyes showed a marked decrease in peripapillary retinal nerve fibre layer thickness, which followed an exponential curve and occurred predominantly within 8 weeks of injury. Compared to a previous study using red-free photographs, scanning laser polarimetry showed retinal nerve fibre layer loss earlier in the course of descending atrophy.Conclusion: Scanning laser polarimetry is useful for early detection and documentation of retinal nerve fibre layer loss following acute injury to the retrobulbar optic nerve. It seems to be a promising tool for follow up of individual glaucoma patients.

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