The 5-year risk of MS after optic neuritis. Experience of the optic neuritis treatment trial

Neurology. 1997 Nov;49(5):1404-13. doi: 10.1212/wnl.49.5.1404.


The objective of our study was to assess the 5-year risk of and prognostic factors for the development of clinically definite multiple sclerosis (CDMS) following optic neuritis. In a prospective cohort study design, 388 patients, who did not have probable or definite MS at study entry enrolled in the Optic Neuritis Treatment Trial between 1988 and 1991, and were followed for the development of CDMS. The 5-year cumulative probability of CDMS was 30% and did not differ by treatment group. Neurologic impairment in the patients who developed CDMS was generally mild. Brain MRI performed at study entry was a strong predictor of CDMS, with the 5-year risk of CDMS ranging from 16% in the 202 patients with no MRI lesions to 51% in the 89 patients with three or more MRI lesions. Independent of brain MRI, the presence of prior nonspecific neurologic symptoms was also predictive of the development of CDMS. Lack of pain, the presence of optic disk swelling, and mild visual acuity loss were features of the optic neuritis associated with a low risk of CDMS among the 189 patients who had no brain MRI lesions and no history of neurologic symptoms or optic neuritis in the fellow eye. The 5-year risk of CDMS following optic neuritis is highly dependent on the number of lesions present on brain MRI. However, even a normal brain MRI does not preclude the development of CDMS. In these patients with no brain MRI lesions, certain clinical features identify a subgroup with a particularly low 5-year risk of CDMS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Optic Neuritis / diagnosis
  • Optic Neuritis / drug therapy*
  • Optic Neuritis / epidemiology*
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use*
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Prednisone