Quantitative characterization of optic nerve atrophy in patients with multiple sclerosis

Mult Scler J Exp Transl Clin. 2017 Sep 13;3(3):2055217317730097. doi: 10.1177/2055217317730097. eCollection Jul-Sep 2017.


Background: Optic neuritis (ON) is one of the most common presentations of multiple sclerosis (MS). Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the optic nerves is challenging because of retrobulbar motion, orbital fat and susceptibility artifacts from maxillary sinuses; therefore, axonal loss is investigated with the surrogate measure of a single heuristically defined point along the nerve as opposed to volumetric investigation.

Objective: The objective of this paper is to derive optic nerve volumetrics along the entire nerve length in patients with MS and healthy controls in vivo using high-resolution, clinically viable MRI.

Methods: An advanced, isotropic T2-weighted turbo spin echo MRI was applied to 29 MS patients with (14 patients ON+) or without (15 patients ON-) history of ON and 42 healthy volunteers. An automated tool was used to estimate and compare whole optic nerve and surrounding cerebrospinal fluid radii along the length of the nerve.

Results and conclusion: Only ON+ MS patients had a significantly reduced optic nerve radius compared to healthy controls in the central segment of the optic nerve. Using clinically available MRI methods, we show and quantify ON volume loss for the first time in MS patients.

Keywords: MRI; atrophy; axonal loss; multiple sclerosis.