Superior segmental optic nerve hypoplasia: A review

Surv Ophthalmol. 2022 Sep-Oct;67(5):1467-1475. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2022.02.008. Epub 2022 Feb 18.


Superior segmental optic nerve hypoplasia (SSONH) is a congenital condition characterized by developmental abnormalities of the superior optic disc and an underappreciated differential diagnosis for glaucoma. The reported prevalence is less than 1%, although likely underestimated due to the difficulties with diagnosis. The exact pathophysiology of SSONH remains elusive, but a mechanism involving developmental attrition of retinal ganglion cells has been proposed, and maternal diabetes is recognized as a major risk factor. SSONH often is observed incidentally, and the patients typically are then evaluated for an acquired optic atrophy, often glaucoma because of the presence of inferior visual field defects. There are 4 characteristic signs of SSONH: superior entrance of the central retinal artery, superior disc pallor, superior peripapillary halo, and thinning of the superior peripapillary nerve fiber layer; however, the presence of these signs is variable. Optical coherence tomography can be helpful in distinguishing SSONH by demonstrating superonasal retinal nerve fiber layer thinning, as compared to the inferotemporal thinning seen in glaucoma, and an aberrant extension of retinal pigment epithelium over Bruch membrane. Overall, the prognosis of SSONH is favorable, with a non-progressive course. It is essential that ophthalmologists recognize and differentiate SSONH from glaucoma to avoid misdiagnosis and unnecessary treatment.

Keywords: Congenital optic disc anomalies; Glaucoma; Glaucomatous optic neuropathy; Optic nerve hypoplasia; Optic neuropathy; Superior segmental optic hypoplasia.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Glaucoma*
  • Humans
  • Optic Disk* / abnormalities
  • Optic Nerve Hypoplasia*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells
  • Tomography, Optical Coherence / methods
  • Visual Field Tests