Optic radiation damage in multiple sclerosis is associated with visual dysfunction and retinal thinning - an ultrahigh-field MR pilot study


  • T. Sinnecker
  • T. Oberwahrenbrock
  • I. Metz
  • H. Zimmermann
  • C.F. Pfueller
  • L. Harms
  • K. Ruprecht
  • C. Ramien
  • K. Hahn
  • W. Brück
  • T. Niendorf
  • F. Paul
  • A.U. Brandt
  • J. Dörr
  • J. Wuerfel


  • European Radiology


  • Eur Radiol 25 (1): 122-131


  • OBJECTIVE: To investigate posterior visual pathway damage in multiple sclerosis using ultrahigh-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) at 7 Tesla (7 T), and to determine its correlation with visual disability and retinal fibre layer (RNFL) damage detectable by optic coherence tomography (OCT). METHODS: We studied 7 T MRI, OCT, functional acuity contrast testing (FACT), and visually evoked potentials (VEP, n = 16) in 30 patients (including 26 relapsing-remitting MS and four clinically isolated syndrome patients) and 12 healthy controls to quantify RNFL thickness, optic radiation lesion volume, and optic radiation thickness. RESULTS: Optic radiation lesion volume was associated with thinning of the optic radiation (p < 0.001), delayed VEP (p = 0.031), and visual disability indicated by FACT (p = 0.020). Furthermore, we observed an inverse correlation between optic radiation lesion volume and RNFL thickness (p < 0.001), including patients without previous optic neuritis (p < 0.001). CONCLUSIONS: Anterior visual pathway damage, but also (subclinical) optic radiation integrity loss detectable by 7 T MRI are common findings in MS that are mutually affected. Given the association between optic radiation damage, visual impairment, and increased VEP latency in this exploratory study of a limited sample size, clinicians should be aware of acute lesions within the optic radiation in patients with (bilateral) visual disturbances. KEY POINTS: * Focal destruction of the optic radiation is detectable by 7 T MRI. * Focal optic radiation damage is common in MS. * Optic radiation damage is associated with RNFL thinning, detectable by OCT. * Optic radiation damage is associated with delayed VEP and visual dysfunction. * RNFL thickness in non-optic neuritis eyes correlates with optic radiation demyelination.