Characterizing Intraorbital Optic Nerve Changes on Diffusion Tensor Imaging in Thyroid Eye Disease Before Dysthyroid Optic Neuropathy

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The aim of this study was to determine whether the optic nerve is affected by thyroid eye disease (TED) before the development of dysthyroid optic neuropathy with diffusion-tensor imaging (DTI).


Twenty TED patients and 20 controls were included. The mean, axial, and radial diffusivities and fractional anisotropy (FA) value were measured at the optic nerves in DTI. Extraocular muscle diameters were measured on computed tomography. The diffusivities and FA of the optic nerves were compared between TED and controls and between active and inactive stages of TED. The correlations between these DTI parameters and the clinical features were determined.


The mean, axial, and radial diffusivities were lower in TED compared with the controls (P < 0.05). In contrast, FA was higher in TED (P = 0.001). Radial diffusivity was lower in the active stage of TED than the inactive stage (P = 0.035). The FA was higher in the TED group than in the control group (P = 0.021) and was positively correlated with clinical activity score (r = 0.364, P = 0.021), modified NOSPECS score (r = 0.469, P = 0.002), and extraocular muscle thickness (r = 0.325, P = 0.041) in the TED group. Radial diffusivity was negatively correlated with modified NOSPECS score (r = −0.384, P = 0.014), and axial diffusivity was positively correlated with exophthalmos degree (r = 0.363, P = 0.025).


The diffusivities and FA reflected changes in the optic nerve before dysthyroid optic neuropathy in TED. The FA, in particular, reflected TED activity and severity.

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