Evaluation of inner retinal layers in patients with multiple sclerosis or neuromyelitis optica using optical coherence tomography

Ophthalmology. 2013 Feb;120(2):387-94. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2012.07.066. Epub 2012 Oct 18.


Purpose: To evaluate the thickness of the inner retinal layers in the macula using frequency-domain optical coherence tomography (fd-OCT) in patients with demyelinating diseases.

Design: Cross-sectional study.

Participants: A total of 301 eyes of 176 subjects were evaluated. Subjects were divided in 5 different groups: controls, neuromyelitis optica (NMO), longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis (LETM), multiple sclerosis with a history of optic neuritis (MS-ON), and multiple sclerosis without a history of optic neuritis (MS non-ON).

Methods: The individual layers from macular fd-OCT cube scans were segmented with an automated algorithm and then manually hand-corrected. For each scan, we determined the thickness of the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL), the combined retinal ganglion cell and inner plexiform layers (RGCL+), and the inner nuclear layer (INL).

Main outcome measures: Macular RNFL, RGCL+, and INL thickness.

Results: The RNFL was significantly thinner than in controls for all patient groups (P ≤ 0.01). Macular RGCL+ thickness was significantly thinner than in controls for the NMO, MS-ON, and MS non-ON groups (P<0.001 for the 3 groups). The INL thickness was significantly thicker than in controls for the patients with NMO (P = 0.003) and LETM (P = 0.006) but not for those with MS-ON or MS non-ON. Although the RNFL and RGCL+ were not significantly different between the NMO and MS-ON groups, the patients with NMO had a significantly thicker INL than the patients with MS-ON (P = 0.02).

Conclusions: Macular RNFL and RGCL+ demonstrate axonal and neural loss in patients with MS, either with or without ON, and in patients with NMO. In addition, the INL thickening occurs in patients with NMO and patients with LETM, and study of this layer may hold promise for differentiating between NMO and MS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Multiple Sclerosis / diagnosis*
  • Nerve Fibers / pathology*
  • Neuromyelitis Optica / diagnosis*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retinal Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology*
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence*
  • Visual Acuity / physiology