Purpose: To assess a novel magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol for quantifying the optic nerve diameter (OND) as a measure of axonal loss in the optic nerve.
Methods: Included in the study was one eye each from 47 subjects, of whom 9 had no eye disease, 16 had preperimetric glaucoma, 11 had a glaucomatous mean visual field defect of <10 dB and 11 of >10 dB. Each subject underwent automated perimetry, scanning laser polarimetry, optic coherence tomography, scanning laser tomography, and ultrafast high-resolution MRI at 3 T. OND was determined 5, 10, and 15 mm behind the eye with a half Fourier-acquired single-shot turbo spin-echo (HASTE)-sequence requiring 1.5 seconds of data acquisition time per slice and providing a spatial resolution of 0.11 mm. A multiple linear regression model was applied to determine correlations (r) among the different techniques.
Results: The correlation (r) was <0.37 for OND measurements taken 5 mm behind the eye. At 10 mm behind the eye, r increased to 0.57 and was statistically significant in four out six instances. In the orbital apex 15 mm behind the eye, r reached a maximum of 0.80 and was statistically significant in all instances. OND correlated best with the retinal nerve fiber layer thickness measured by optic coherence tomography.
Conclusions: Retina- or optic nerve head-related surrogate markers for axonal content correlated closely with the OND, although only when it was measured in the orbital apex. High-resolution MRI using an ultrafast HASTE-sequence at 3 T proved useful for OND quantification and may be a valuable asset in future neuroprotection trials.