Objectives: To assess the association of primary retinal inflammation, namely retinal periphlebitis (RP) and microcystic macular edema, with clinical, brain, and retinal imaging biomarkers of multiple sclerosis (MS) severity.
Methods: One hundred patients with MS underwent a neurologic and ophthalmic examination, MRI, and optical coherence tomography. Disability was assessed using the Expanded Disability Status Scale at baseline and after a 1-year follow-up. The normalized brain volume, the normal-appearing gray matter volume, and T1 lesion volume were assessed at baseline as radiologic biomarkers of disease severity. Retinal nerve fiber layer thickness and macular volume at baseline were used as surrogate markers of axonal damage. We used general linear models adjusted for sex, age, disease duration, and MS treatment to compared adjusted means of these parameters among patients with RP and patients without primary retinal inflammation.
Results: Five patients showed RP, 2 showed microcystic macular edema, and the retina was normal in the remaining 93. Patients with RP had a tendency toward a higher adjusted-mean Expanded Disability Status Scale score at baseline and disability progression after a 1-year follow-up compared with patients without primary retinal inflammation. These patients also had a higher adjusted-mean T1 lesion volume (adjusted differences: 10.4, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.6 to 20.2; p = 0.038) and lower T1 brain volume (adjusted differences: -68, 95% CI: -139 to 2; p = 0.059). Patients with RP had a lower adjusted-mean retinal nerve fiber layer thickness (adjusted differences: -13.4, 95% CI: -24.4 to -2.3; p = 0.018) and a trend toward lower macular volume.
Conclusions: These results support the role of RP as a biomarker of MS severity.