Optical coherence tomography as a means to characterize visual pathway involvement in multiple sclerosis

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Purpose of review

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a noninvasive in-vivo imaging tool that enables the quantification of the various retinal layer thicknesses. Given the frequent involvement of the visual pathway in multiple sclerosis, OCT has become an important tool in clinical practice, research and clinical trials. In this review, the role of OCT as a means to investigate visual pathway damage in multiple sclerosis is discussed.

Recent findings

Evidence from recent OCT studies suggests that the peripapillary retinal nerve fibre layer (pRNFL) appears to be an ideal marker of axonal integrity, whereas the macular ganglion cell and inner plexiform layer (GCIP) thickness enables early detection of neuronal degeneration in multiple sclerosis. The thickness of the macular inner nuclear layer (INL) has been suggested as a biomarker for inflammatory disease activity and treatment response in multiple sclerosis. OCT parameters may also be used as an outcome measure in clinical trials evaluating the neuroprotective or regenerative potential of new treatments.


OCT provides insights into multiple sclerosis beyond the visual pathway. It is capable of quantifying the major pathological hallmarks of the disease, specifically inflammation and neuroaxonal degeneration. OCT, therefore, has the potential to become another mainstay in the monitoring of multiple sclerosis patients.

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