Optical Coherence Tomography for the Detection of Remote Optic Neuritis in Multiple Sclerosis

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Evidence of remote optic neuritis is often used to support a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). Optical coherence tomography (OCT) can provide qualitative and quantitative data on the retina, where the effects of optic neuritis can be seen. Our aim was to determine whether there is a quantitative difference in retinal structures in eyes with optic neuritis compared with those without, and which measures were best able to discriminate eyes with a history of optic neuritis from nonoptic neuritis eyes in MS patients.


We performed a prospective cohort study of 30 MS-optic neuritis patients, 22 MS-nonoptic neuritis patients, and 24 healthy participants. Patients underwent visual acuity testing and OCT imaging. Retinal measurements were compared across groups. OCT measurements and visual acuities were analyzed for their ability to discriminate between optic neuritis and nonoptic neuritis eyes.


Optic neuritis eyes exhibited a thinner peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer, papillomacular bundle, and ganglion cell + inner plexiform layer thicknesses compared to MS eyes without optic neuritis and healthy controls. Papillomacular bundle thickness was the best model to discriminate between eyes with optic neuritis and nonoptic neuritis eyes in MS patients. Visual acuity alone yielded rather poor models.


Optic neuritis is associated with thinning in multiple regions of the retina. Optic neuritis eyes can be differentiated most accurately from nonoptic neuritis eyes using OCT. Our work suggests a potential role for OCT in documenting a remote history of optic neuritis to corroborate a diagnosis of MS.

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