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Optical coherence tomography for retinal imaging in multiple sclerosis

Authors Zimmermann H, Oberwahrenbrock T, Brandt AU, Paul F, Dörr J

Received 30 August 2014

Accepted for publication 17 October 2014

Published 9 December 2014 Volume 2014:4 Pages 153—162

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/DNND.S73506

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Prof. Dr. Thomas Müller


Hanna Zimmermann,1 Timm Oberwahrenbrock,1 Alexander U Brandt,1 Friedemann Paul,1–3 Jan Dörr1,2

1NeuroCure Clinical Research Center, 2Clinical and Experimental Multiple Sclerosis Research Center, 3Department of Neurology, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany


Abstract: Visual disturbances caused by inflammatory and demyelinating processes of the visual system, mainly in the optic nerve, are a common symptom in multiple sclerosis (MS). Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a tool that is increasingly used for quantifying retinal damage in MS and other neurologic diseases. Based on spectral interferometry, it uses low-coherent infrared light to generate high-resolution spatial images of the retina. The retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) consists of unmyelinated axons that form the optic nerve, and thus represents a part of the central nervous system. OCT allows for noninvasive measurements of RNFL thickness in micrometer resolution. With the help of OCT, researchers have managed to demonstrate that eyes of MS patients show distinct RNFL thinning after an event of acute optic neuritis in MS, and even subclinical damage in eyes with no previous optic neuritis. OCT is also a useful tool in terms of providing a differential diagnosis of MS toward, for example, neuromyelitis optica, a disease that usually shows stronger retinal thinning, or Susac syndrome, which is characterized by distinct patchy thinning of the inner retinal layers. RNFL thinning is associated with magnetic resonance imaging-derived measurements of the brain, such as whole-brain atrophy, gray and white matter atrophy, and optic radiation damage. These features suggest that OCT-derived retinal measurements are a complement for measuring central nervous system neurodegeneration in the context of clinical trials – for example, with neuroprotective substances.

Keywords: visual function, multiple sclerosis, optic neuritis, retinal nerve fiber layer, neuromyelitis optica, Susac syndrome

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