Retinal and optic nerve changes in microcephaly: An optical coherence tomography study

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Abstract

Objective

To investigate the morphology of the retina and optic nerve (ON) in microcephaly.

Methods

This was a prospective case-control study including 27 patients with microcephaly and 27 healthy controls. All participants underwent ophthalmologic examination and handheld optical coherence tomography (OCT) of the macula and ON head. The thickness of individual retinal layers was quantified at the foveal center and the parafovea (1,000 μm nasal and temporal to the fovea). For the ON head, disc diameter, cup diameter, cup-to-disc ratio, cup depth, horizontal rim diameter, rim area, peripapillary retinal thickness, and retinal nerve fiber layer thickness were measured.

Results

Seventy-eight percent of patients had ophthalmologic abnormalities, mainly nystagmus (56%) and strabismus (52%). OCT abnormalities were found in 85% of patients. OCT revealed disruption of the ellipsoid zone, persistent inner retinal layers, and irregular foveal pits. Parafoveal retinal thickness was significantly reduced in patients with microcephaly compared to controls, nasally (307 ± 44 vs 342 ± 19 μm, p = 0.001) and temporally (279 ± 56 vs 325 ± 16 μm, p < 0.001). There was thinning of the ganglion cell layer and the inner segments of the photoreceptors in microcephaly. Total peripapillary retinal thickness was smaller in patients with microcephaly compared to controls for both temporal (275 vs 318 μm, p < 0.001) and nasal sides (239 vs 268 μm, p = 0.013).

Conclusions

Retinal and ON anomalies in microcephaly likely reflect retinal cell reduction and lamination alteration due to impaired neurogenic mitosis. OCT allows diagnosis and quantification of retinal and ON changes in microcephaly even if they are not detected on ophthalmoscopy.

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