Retinal nerve fiber layer thickness, brain atrophy, and disability in multiple sclerosis patients

Objective: To study the relationship between retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness and brain atrophy using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) with bicaudate ratio (BCR) in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) with different levels of disease severity. We also assessed whether RNFL thickness correlated with Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) score.

Methods: The participants consisted of 88 patients with MS and 59 age- and sex-matched healthy control subjects. Eleven patients had clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), 68 patients had relapsing-remitting MS (RR-MS), and 9 patients had secondary progressive MS. Patients and controls were evaluated using optical coherence tomography (OCT, Cirrus) and scanning laser polarimetry with variable corneal compensation (GDx VCC). Patients underwent the same brain MRI scanning protocol. Disability was evaluated according to the EDSS. The BCR was calculated by dividing the minimum intercaudate distance by brain width along the same level.

Results: The BCR was higher in patients with MS (0.12 ± 0.03) than in controls (0.08 ± 0.009) (P < 0.001). OCT average RNFL thickness in patients with MS was significantly lower (84.51 ± 14.27 μm) than in control subjects (98.44 ± 6.83 μm). BCR was correlated with OCT average RNFL thickness (r = -0.48, P = 0.002) in patients with MS without optic neuritis. Significant correlations were found between average RNFL thickness and EDSS (r = -0.43, P = 0.003). Additionally, there were correlations between BCR with GDx parameters in patients with MS without optic neuritis.

Conclusions: This study shows that RNFL thickness correlates with BCR and with MS subtypes. Additionally, our study indicates that OCT is better suited for MS assessment than GDx. We conclude that the damage of retinal axons appears related to brain damage in patients with MS.

Abalo-Lojo JM, Limeres CC, Gómez MA, Baleato-González S, Cadarso-Suárez C, Capeáns-Tomé C, Gonzalez F. Retinal nerve fiber layer thickness, brain atrophy, and disability in multiple sclerosis patients. J Neuroophthalmol. 2014;34(1):23-8.



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