Background: Neuromyelitis optica (NMO) is an inflammatory disease with combined features of optic neuritis and myelitis. This pathologic entity may induce severe disability, including visual loss and paraplegia. Other than clinical follow-up, there is no marker for severity of the disease.
Objectives: To evaluate the use of optical coherence tomography (OCT) in NMO and to determine whether this new technique could be a good marker of axonal loss in NMO.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Participants: Thirty-five patients with NMO or at a high risk for NMO (having optic neuritis or myelitis and who are positive for NMO antibody) were prospectively studied. Fifteen healthy individuals served as control subjects.
Main outcome measure: All patients underwent a complete ophthalmologic evaluation, including OCT, funduscopy, and visual field, visual acuity, and visual evoked potential testing. Expanded Disability Status Scale scores were assessed but without the visual data. Correlations between the visual test results and demographic or clinical characteristics were evaluated.
Results: Optical coherence tomography and visual field data were available for only 32 patients because 3 patients were blind. The mean retinal nerve fiber layer thickness was significantly reduced in patients with NMO compared with controls (P < .001). We found good correlation between the OCT results and visual field testing. We also found weak correlation between OCT results and both visual acuity and visual evoked potential latencies. We did not find any correlation between OCT results and age, sex, or disease duration. In contrast, retinal nerve fiber layer thickness was closely correlated with the Expanded Disability Status Scale score (P < .001).
Conclusions: Optical coherence tomography results are significantly altered in patients with NMO. Optical coherence tomography is easy to perform, and the results are well correlated with visual acuity and visual field findings. It could be considered a marker of axonal loss because we found good correlation between OCT and the Expanded Disability Status Scale score. These preliminary results will need to be confirmed in a longitudinal prospective study.