Zimmermann et al. – Association of Retinal Ganglion Cell Layer Thickness With Future Disease Activity in Patients With Clinically Isolated Syndrome.

JAMA Neurol. 2018 Apr 23. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2018.1011.

by Zimmermann HG & Knier B, Oberwahrenbrock T, Behrens J, Pfuhl C, Aly L, Kaminski M, Hoshi MM, Specovius S, Giess RM, Scheel M, Mühlau M, Bellmann-Strobl J, Ruprecht K, Hemmer B, Korn T, Paul F, Brandt AU.

Importance: Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) describes a first clinical incident suggestive of multiple sclerosis (MS). Identifying patients with CIS who have a high risk of future disease activity and subsequent MS diagnosis is crucial for patient monitoring and the initiation of disease-modifying therapy.
Objective: To investigate the association of retinal optical coherence tomography (OCT) results with future disease activity in patients with CIS.
Design, Setting, and Participants: This prospective, longitudinal cohort study took place between January 2011 and May 2017 at 2 German tertiary referral centers. A total of 179 patients with CIS were screened (80 in Berlin and 99 in Munich). Patients underwent neurological examination, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and OCT. Only eyes with no previous optic neuritis were considered for OCT analysis.
Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was not meeting the no evidence of disease activity (NEDA-3) criteria; secondary outcomes were MS diagnosis (by the 2010 McDonald criteria) and worsening of disability. The primary measure was OCT-derived ganglion cell and inner plexiform layer thickness; the secondary measures included peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer thickness, inner nuclear layer thickness, and MRI-derived T2-weighted lesions.
Results: A total of 97 of the 179 screened patients (54.2%) were enrolled in the study at a median of 93 (interquartile range [IQR], 62-161) days after a first demyelinating event. The median follow-up duration (Kaplan-Meier survival time) was 729 (IQR, 664-903) days. Of 97 patients with CIS (mean age 33.6 [7.9] years; 61 [62.9%] female), 58 (59%) did not meet NEDA-3 criteria during the follow-up period. A Kaplan-Meier analysis showed a significant probability difference in not meeting NEDA-3 criteria by ganglion cell and inner plexiform later thickness (thinnest vs thickest tertile: hazard ratio [HR], 3.33 [95% CI, 1.70-6.55; P < .001; log-rank P = .001). A follow-up diagnosis of MS was more likely for patients with low ganglion cell and inner plexiform layer thickness (thinnest vs thickest tertile: HR, 4.05 [95% CI, 1.93-8.50]; P < .001). Low peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer thickness likewise indicated risk of not meeting NEDA-3 criteria (thinnest vs thickest tertile: HR, 2.46 [95% CI, 1.29-4.66]; P = .01; log-rank P = .02). Inner nuclear layer thickness and T2-weighted lesion count were not associated with not meeting NEDA-3 criteria.
Conclusions and Relevance: Retinal ganglion cell and inner plexiform layer thickness might prove a valuable imaging marker for anticipating future disease activity and diagnosis of MS in patients with CIS, which can potentially support patient monitoring and initiation of disease-modifying therapy.

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