Optic nerve decompression surgery for nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION) is not effective and may be harmful. The Ischemic Optic Neuropathy Decompression Trial Research Group

JAMA. 1995 Feb 22;273(8):625-32.


Objective: To assess the safety and efficacy of optic nerve decompression surgery compared with careful follow-up alone in patients with nonarteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy (NAION).

Design: The Ischemic Optic Neuropathy Decompression Trial (IONDT) is a randomized, single-masked, multicenter trial.

Setting: Twenty-five US clinical centers.

Participants: The IONDT ceased recruitment on October 20, 1994, on the recommendation of its Data and Safety Monitoring Committee. The preliminary results presented herein are based on data as of September 8, 1994, from 244 patients with NAION and visual acuity of 20/64 or worse. One hundred twenty-five patients had been randomized to careful follow-up, and 119 had been randomized to surgery, with 91 and 95, respectively, having completed 6 months of follow-up.

Intervention: Patients in the surgery group received optic nerve decompression surgery and follow-up ophthalmologic examinations; those in the careful follow-up group received ophthalmologic examinations at the same times as the surgery group.

Main outcome measures: Gain or loss of three or more lines of visual acuity on the New York Lighthouse chart at 6 months after randomization, as measured by a technician masked to treatment assignment.

Results: Patients assigned to surgery did no better when compared with patients assigned to careful follow-up regarding improved visual acuity of three or more lines at 6 months: 32.6% of the surgery group improved compared with 42.7% of the careful follow-up group. The odds ratio (OR) for three or more lines better, adjusted for baseline visual acuity and diabetes, was 0.74 (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.39 to 1.38). Patients receiving surgery had a significantly greater risk of losing three or more lines of vision at 6 months: 23.9% in the surgery group worsened compared with 12.4% in the careful follow-up group. The 6-month adjusted OR for three or more lines worse was 1.96 (95% CI, 0.87 to 4.41). No difference in treatment effect was observed between patients with progressive NAION and all others.

Conclusion: Results from the IONDT indicate that optic nerve decompression surgery for NAION is not effective, may be harmful, and should be abandoned. The spontaneous improvement rate is better than previously reported.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Optic Nerve / surgery*
  • Optic Nerve Diseases / surgery*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Visual Acuity
  • Visual Fields