Retinal ganglion cell layer thinning within one month of presentation for optic neuritis

Mult Scler. 2016 Apr;22(5):641-8. doi: 10.1177/1352458515598020. Epub 2015 Sep 11.


Background: Spectral domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) reveals retinal ganglion cell layer plus inner plexiform layer (GCL+IPL) and peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (pRNFL) thinning in chronic optic nerve injury. At presentation, swelling of the pRNFL confounds evaluation of early axon loss.

Objective: We studied whether the GCL+IPL thins before the pRNFL, the trajectory of GCL+IPL loss and relationship to vision.

Methods: We prospectively evaluated 33 eyes (study) with new optic neuritis, using perimetry and SD-OCT with investigative three-dimensional layer segmentation and commercial two-dimensional segmentation to compute the GCL+IPL and pRNFL thickness.

Results: At presentation, GCL+IPL thickness (82.4±8.8 µm) did not differ from unaffected fellow eyes (81.2±6.7 µm), via the three-dimensional method, while the two-dimensional method failed in 9% of study eyes. At 1-2 months, there was thinning of the pRNFL in 10% and of the GCL+IPL in 93% of study eyes. GCL+IPL reduction was greatest during the first 2 months. GCL+IPL thinning at 1-2 months correlated with GCL+IPL thinning at 6 months (r=0.84, P=0.01) and presentation visual acuity (r=0.48, P=0.006) and perimetric mean deviation (r=0.52, P=0.003).

Conclusion: GGL+IPL is an early biomarker of structural injury in optic neuritis as thinning develops within 1-2 months of onset, prior to pRNFL thinning.

Keywords: OCT; RNFL; Retinal ganglion cell layer; optic neuritis; peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Optic Neuritis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Optic Neuritis / pathology
  • Optic Neuritis / physiopathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retina / pathology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / pathology*
  • Time Factors
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods
  • Visual Acuity