Ganglion cell loss in relation to visual disability in multiple sclerosis

Scott D. Walter, Hiroshi Ishikawa, Kristin M. Galetta, Reiko E. Sakai, Daniel J. Feller, Sam B. Henderson, James A. Wilson, Maureen G. Maguire, Steven L. Galetta, Elliot Frohman, Peter A. Calabresi, Joel S. Schuman, Laura J. Balcer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: We used high-resolution spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (SD-OCT) with retinal segmentation to determine how ganglion cell loss relates to history of acute optic neuritis (ON), retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thinning, visual function, and vision-related quality of life (QOL) in multiple sclerosis (MS). Design: Cross-sectional study. Participants: A convenience sample of patients with MS (n = 122; 239 eyes) and disease-free controls (n = 31; 61 eyes). Among MS eyes, 87 had a history of ON before enrollment. Methods: The SD-OCT images were captured using Macular Cube (200×200 or 512×128) and ONH Cube 200×200 protocols. Retinal layer segmentation was performed using algorithms established for glaucoma studies. Thicknesses of the ganglion cell layer/inner plexiform layer (GCL+IPL), RNFL, outer plexiform/inner nuclear layers (OPL+INL), and outer nuclear/photoreceptor layers (ONL+PRL) were measured and compared in MS versus control eyes and MS ON versus non-ON eyes. The relation between changes in macular thickness and visual disability was also examined. Main Outcome Measures: The OCT measurements of GCL+IPL and RNFL thickness; high contrast visual acuity (VA); low-contrast letter acuity (LCLA) at 2.5% and 1.25% contrast; on the 25-item National Eye Institute Visual Function Questionnaire (NEI-VFQ-25) and 10-Item Neuro-Ophthalmic Supplement composite score. Results: Macular RNFL and GCL+IPL were significantly decreased in MS versus control eyes (P<0.001 and P = 0.001) and in MS ON versus non-ON eyes (P<0.001 for both measures). Peripapillary RNFL, macular RNFL, GCL+IPL, and the combination of macular RNFL+GCL+IPL were significantly correlated with VA (P≤0.001), 2.5% LCLA (P<0.001), and 1.25% LCLA (P≤0.001). Among OCT measurements, reductions in GCL+IPL (P<0.001), macular RNFL (P = 0.006), and the combination (macular RNFL+GCL+IPL; P<0.001) were most strongly associated with lower (worse) NEI-VFQ-25 and 10-Item Supplement QOL scores; GCL+IPL thinning was significant even accounting for macular RNFL thickness (P = 0.03 for GCL+IPL, P = 0.39 for macular RNFL). Conclusions: We demonstrated that GCL+IPL thinning is most significantly correlated with both visual function and vision-specific QOL in MS, and may serve as a useful structural marker of disease. Our findings parallel those of magnetic resonance imaging studies that show gray matter disease is a marker of neurologic disability in MS. Financial Disclosure(s): Proprietary or commercial disclosure may be found after the references.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1250-1257
Number of pages8
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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