Objective: To evaluate optic nerve morphology in children with various conditions caused by adverse events during prenatal and/or perinatal life and to investigate whether optic nerve morphology can reveal brain lesions associated with these conditions, as well as provide insight into the etiology and timing of the prenatal and perinatal damage.
Methods and patients: A digital image analysis technique was used to analyze fundus photographs. One hundred healthy Swedish individuals of various ages from childhood to adolescence constituted a reference group. The following patient groups were chosen to represent various clinical conditions affecting the newborn or fetus at different stages of development: children born preterm (N = 39), children with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS [N = 16]), children with periventricular leukomalacia (PVL [N = 17]), and children with septo-optic dysplasia (SOD [N = 6]).
Results: Preterm children without known brain lesions demonstrated normal optic disk morphology but abnormal retinal vascular pattern; children born preterm with an acquired brain lesion late in gestation (PVL) demonstrated normal disk size with enlarged cups in addition to the abnormal vascular pattern. Children with prenatal alcohol exposure (FAS) had a subnormal optic disk area with increased tortuosity of both arteries and veins, whereas children born at term with an early acquired brain lesion (SOD) had a markedly reduced optic disk area with isolated tortuosity of the retinal veins.
Conclusions: Evaluation of optic nerve morphology, by digital image analysis, demonstrated that differences in ocular fundus morphology were correlated with differences in etiology and timing of the adverse event occurring in prenatal and perinatal life. In addition, digital image analysis may be a helpful tool for understanding variations in optic nerve and retinal vessel morphology and their relationship with central nervous pathology.