Background: Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) may show alterations of retinal layer architecture as measured by optical coherence tomography. Little is known about changes in the retinal vascular network during MS.
Objective: To characterize retinal vessel structures in patients with MS and CIS and to test for associations with MS disease activity.
Method: In all, 42 patients with MS or CIS and 50 healthy controls underwent retinal optical coherence tomography angiography (OCT-A) with analysis of the superficial and deep vascular plexuses and the choriocapillaries. We tested OCT-A parameters for associations with retinal layer volumes, history of optic neuritis (ON), and the retrospective disease activity.
Results: Inner retinal layer volumes correlated positively with the density of both the superficial and deep vascular plexuses. Eyes of MS/CIS patients with a history of ON revealed reduced vessel densities of the superficial and deep vascular plexuses as compared to healthy controls. Higher choriocapillary vessel densities were associated with ongoing inflammatory disease activity during 24 months prior to OCT-A examination in MS and CIS patients.
Conclusion: Optic neuritis is associated with rarefaction of the superficial and deep retinal vessels. Alterations of the choriocapillaries might be linked to disease activity in MS.
Keywords: Multiple sclerosis; biomarker; disease activity; optic neuritis; optical coherence tomography; optical coherence tomography angiography.