Purpose: Non-arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is the most common cause of non-glaucomatous optic neuropathy in older adults. Optical coherence tomographic angiography (OCT-A) is an emerging, non-invasive method to study the microvasculature of the posterior pole, including the optic nerve head. The goal of this study was to assess the vascular changes in the optic nerve head and peripapillary area associated with NAION using OCT-A.
Design: Retrospective comparative case series.
Methods: We performed OCT-A in 25 eyes (7 acute and 18 non-acute) in 19 patients with NAION. Fellow, unaffected eyes were analyzed for comparison. Patent macro- and microvascular densities were quantified in the papillary and peripapillary regions of unaffected, acutely affected, and non-acutely affected eyes and compared across these groups according to laminar segment and capillary sampling region, and with respect to performance on automated visual field testing.
Results: In acutely affected eyes, OCT-A revealed a reduction in the signal from the major retinal vessels and dilation of patent superficial capillaries in the peripapillary area. By contrast, non-acutely affected eyes showed attenuation of patent capillaries. The peripapillary choriocapillaris was obscured by edema in acute cases, but was similar between non-acute and unaffected eyes. The degree of dilation of the superficial microvasculature in the acute phase and attenuation in the non-acute phase each correlated inversely with visual field performance. The region of reduced patent capillary density correlated with the location of visual field defects in 80% of acute cases and 80% of non-acute cases.
Conclusions: OCT-A reveals a dynamic shift in the superficial capillary network of the optic nerve head with strong functional correlates in both the acute and non-acute phases of NAION. Further study may validate OCT-A as a useful adjunctive diagnostic tool in the evaluation of ischemic optic neuropathy.