MRI Study of the Posterior Visual Pathways in Primary Open Angle Glaucoma

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Abstract

Purpose of the Study:

The purpose of the study was to evaluate neurodegeneration along brain visual pathways in primary open angle glaucoma (POAG) using improved analysis methods of volumetric and diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data.

Methods:

Eleven POAG patients (60.0±9.2 y) with primarily mild to moderate POAG and 11 age-matched controls (55.9±7.5 y) were studied using structural and diffusion tensor MRI. Surface-based segmentation was applied to structural MRI to obtain visual cortical area and volume. Fiber tracking was applied to diffusion tensor data to obtain diffusion parameters along the optic tract and optic radiation. MRI parameters in glaucoma patients were compared with the corresponding left and right visual fields and retinal nerve fiber layer thicknesses, instead of with the left and right eye.

Results:

Area and volume of the primary visual cortex were significantly reduced in POAG patients compared with controls (P<0.05) but did not correlate with visual field loss. Fractional anisotropy was reduced at multiple locations along the optic tracts and optic radiations in POAG patients compared with controls. Axial and radial diffusivity along the fiber tracts showed trends but were not significantly different between POAG patients and controls when averaged over the whole structures. Only fractional anisotropy (P<0.05) of the optic radiations was significantly correlated with visual field loss. No MRI parameters were correlated with retinal nerve fiber layer thickness.

Conclusions:

Improved analysis techniques of MRI data improves delineation of degeneration in the brain visual pathways and further supports the notion that neurodegeneration is involved with glaucoma pathogenesis.

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