Detection of optic nerve atrophy following a single episode of unilateral optic neuritis by MRI using a fat-saturated short-echo fast FLAIR sequence

Neuroradiology. 2001 Feb;43(2):123-8. doi: 10.1007/s002340000450.


We describe an MRI technique for quantifying optic nerve atrophy resulting from a single episode of unilateral optic neuritis. We imaged 17 patients, with a median time since onset of optic neuritis of 21 months (range 3-81 months), using a coronal-oblique fat-saturated short-echo fast fluid-attenuated inversion-recovery (sTE fFLAIR) sequence. The mean cross-sectional area of the intraorbital portion of the optic nerves was calculated by a blinded observer from five consecutive 3 mm slices from the orbital apex forwards using a semiautomated contouring technique and compared with data from 16 controls. The mean optic nerve area was 11.2 mm2 in the affected eye of the patients, 12.9 mm2 in the contralateral eye (P = 0.006 compared to the affected eye) and 12.8 mm2 in controls (P = 0.03 compared to the affected eyes). There was a significant negative correlation between disease duration and the size of the affected optic nerve (r = -0.59, P = 0.012). The measurement coefficient of variation was 4.8%. The sTE fFLAIR sequence enables measurement of optic nerve area with sufficient reproducibility to show optic nerve atrophy following a single episode of unilateral optic neuritis. The correlation of increasing optic nerve atrophy with disease duration would be consistent with ongoing axonal loss in a persistently demyelinated lesion, or Wallerian degeneration following axonal damage during the acute inflammatory phase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Optic Atrophy / etiology
  • Optic Atrophy / pathology*
  • Optic Nerve / pathology
  • Optic Neuritis / complications*
  • Time Factors