MS Optic Neuritis-Induced Long-Term Structural Changes Within the Visual Pathway

Neurol Neuroimmunol Neuroinflamm. 2020 Jan 22;7(2):e665. doi: 10.1212/NXI.0000000000000665. Print 2020 Mar 5.


Background: The visual pathway is commonly involved in multiple sclerosis (MS), even in its early stages, including clinical episodes of optic neuritis (ON). The long-term structural damage within the visual compartment in patients with ON, however, is yet to be elucidated.

Objective: Our aim was to characterize visual system structure abnormalities using MRI along with optical coherence tomography (OCT) and pattern-reversal visual evoked potentials (VEPs) depending on a single history of ON.

Methods: Twenty-eight patients with clinically definitive MS, either with a history of a single ON (HON) or without such history and normal VEP findings (NON), were included. OCT measures comprised OCT-derived peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) and macular ganglion cell/inner plexiform layer (GCIPL) thickness. Cortical and global gray and white matter, thalamic, and T2 lesion volumes were assessed using structural MRI. Diffusion-weighted MRI-derived measures included fractional anisotropy (FA), mean (MD), radial (RD), and axial (AD) diffusivity within the optic radiation (OR).

Results: Mean (SD) duration after ON was 8.3 (3.7) years. Compared with the NON group, HON patients showed significant RNFL (p = 0.01) and GCIPL thinning (p = 0.002). OR FA (p = 0.014), MD (p = 0.005), RD (p = 0.007), and AD (p = 0.004) were altered compared with NON. Global gray and white as well as other regional gray matter structures did not differ between the 2 groups.

Conclusion: A single history of ON induces long-term structural damage within the retina and OR suggestive of both retrograde and anterograde neuroaxonal degeneration.