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J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 2009 Sep;80(9):1002-5. doi: 10.1136/jnnp.2008.166207. Epub 2009 May 21.

Distinctive retinal nerve fibre layer and vascular changes in neuromyelitis optica following optic neuritis.

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  • 1Multiple Sclerosis Center, Department of Neurology, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.



This is a cross sectional study comparing the retinal features of optic neuritis (ON) between 20 multiple sclerosis (MS) and 16 neuromyelitis optica (NMO) patients with a history of ON (visual acuity at time of attack >20/100) matched for age and gender using optical coherence tomography (OCT) and fundoscopy.


Compared with MS, NMO patients often had: (1) vascular changes, including attenuation of the peripapillary vascular tree (3/40 MS eyes, 22/32 NMO eyes; p = 0.001) and focal arteriolar narrowing (0/40 MS eyes and 9/32 NMO eyes; p<0.0001), (2) a lower average nerve fibre layer (NFL) thickness (59.2 microm compared with 82.0 microm in MS; p = 0.004) and (3) nearly twice the NFL thinning after controlling for final visual acuity (32.1 vs 17.6 microm; p = 0.004). Patients with NMO had more severe and diffuse axonal injury of the NFL compared with MS.


These NFL and fundoscopic findings suggest that some of the injury seen in NMO may be vascularly mediated. These inner retinal vascular changes are reminiscent of blood vessel wall thickening previously reported in the optic nerve and spinal cord at autopsy. If the retinal changes share a common pathology to those in the spinal cord and optic nerve, these observations suggest that vascular changes may be detectable during life.

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