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Br J Ophthalmol. 2003 Jan;87(1):48-53.

Optic disc morphology of patients with OPA1 autosomal dominant optic atrophy.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Genetics, Institute of Ophthalmology, UCL, Bath Street, London EC1V 9EL, UK. m_votruba@altavista.co.uk



Patients with autosomal dominant optic atrophy (ADOA) are genetically heterogeneous, but all have disc pallor. A degree of cupping in ADOA can make the distinction from normal tension glaucoma (NTG) clinically difficult. This study aimed to clarify the features of the optic nerve of patients with ADOA at the OPA1 locus.


29 patients (58 eyes), from 12 families, were identified in a prospective observational study of patients with ADOA examined by a single observer between 1995 and 1998, in whom genetic analysis showed either evidence for linkage to chromosome 3q28 or mutations in the ADOA gene, OPA1. All of the patients had disc and fundal photographs available for retrospective analysis. Clinical data collected included disc appearance, intraocular pressure, Snellen visual acuity, Hardy-Rand-Rittler colour vision plates, and Humphrey 30-2 visual fields.


Mean age at time of examination was 37 years and mean visual acuity was 6/24. Disc morphology showed temporal disc pallor in 30 eyes (52%) and total disc pallor in 28 eyes (48%). At least one disc showed a cup to disc ratio of more than 0.5 in 18 patients (28 discs, 48%). The temporal neuroretinal rim always showed pallor and shallow shelving (or saucerisation) was seen in 46 eyes (79%). Only 12 discs (21%) had deep excavation and baring of blood vessels. All of the patients had normal intraocular pressure and no family history of glaucoma. There was a temporal grey, pigmentary crescent in 12 patients (18 eyes, 31%) and peripapillary atrophy in 20 patients (40 eyes, 69%), but disc margin haemorrhages were not seen. There was no maculopathy or retinopathy.


The optic disc morphology, described for the first time in this genetically homogeneous population of patients with OPA1 ADOA, shows a distinctive absence of a healthy neuroretinal rim and shallow saucerisation of the optic disc cup, with frequent peripapillary atrophy.

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