Introduction: Joubert syndrome (JS) is a recessive disorder characterized by a congenital malformation of the mid-hindbrain and a large spectrum of clinical features including optic nerve morphologic abnormalities. The function of the visual pathways, including the optic nerve, can be objectively evaluated by visual evoked potential (VEP) recordings. Our work aims to employ VEP to evaluate the neural conduction along the visual pathways in JS patients with or without optic nerve morphologic abnormalities (ONMA).
Methods: In this observational and prospective study, 18 children with genetic diagnosis of JS (mean age 8.78 ± 5.87 years) and 17 healthy age-similar control subjects (control group, 9.05 ± 6.02 years) were enrolled. Based on presence/absence of ONMA at fundus examination, JS patients were divided into two groups: the JS-A group (eight patients with ONMA) and JS-N group (ten patients without ONMA). Following the ISCEV standards, pattern VEPs were recorded in patients and controls in response to 60' and 15' checks to obtain a prevalent activation of large or small axons, respectively.
Results: Compared to controls, both the JS-A and JS-N groups showed significant abnormalities in 60' and 15' VEP implicit time and amplitude. Only in the JS-N group were values of 15' VEP implicit significantly correlated with the corresponding values of visual acuity.
Conclusions: Our results suggest that a visual pathways dysfunction (of both large and small axons) detectable by VEP may occur in JS patients regardless of the presence of ONMA. Since clinical trials are envisaged in the near future to address JS-related ocular problems, our results might provide information about the potential usefulness of VEP recordings to assess the efficacy of treatments targeted to improve the visual pathways' function.
Keywords: Joubert syndrome; Ophthalmology; Optic nerve; Visual evoked potentials; Visual pathways.