Brandt et al. – Frequent retinal ganglion cell damage after acute optic neuritis.

Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2018 May;22:141-147. doi: 10.1016/j.msard.2018.04.006.

by Alexander U. Brandt, Svenja Specovius, Timm Oberwahrenbrock, Hanna G. Zimmermann, Friedemann Paul,
Fiona Costello.

BACKGROUND: To identify the extent of ganglion cell damage after first-time optic neuritis (ON) using the inter-ocular difference between affected and fellow eyes, and whether this approach is able to detect more patients suffering from ganglion cell damage than using absolute values.
METHODS: Thirty-four patients with first-time unilateral ON were followed for a median 413 days. Patients underwent optical coherence tomography testing to determine ganglion cell plus inner plexiform layer thickness (GCIP). Ganglion cell loss was quantified as GCIP difference between ON-affected and fellow eyes (inter-GCIP) and was compared against measurements from 93 healthy controls (HC). Visual function was assessed with high contrast visual acuity; and standard automated perimetry-derived measures of mean deviation and foveal threshold.
RESULTS: At clinical presentation after median 19 days from symptom onset, 47.1% of patients showed early GCIP thinning in the ON-affected eye based on inter-GCIP. At the last visit acute ON was associated with 16.1 ± 10.0 µm GCIP thinning compared to fellow eyes (p = 3.669e-06). Based on inter-GCIP, 84.9% of ON patients sustained GCIP thinning in their affected eye at the last visit, whereas using absolute values only 71.0% of patients suffered from GCIP thinning (p = 0.002076). Only 32.3% of these patients had abnormal visual function. The best predictor of GCIP thinning as a measure of ON severity at the last visit was worse visual field mean deviation at clinical presentation.
CONCLUSION: Inter-ocular GCIP identifies significantly more eyes suffering damage from ON than absolute GCIP, visual fields or visual acuity loss. Effective interventional options are needed to prevent ganglion cell loss.

Chien et al. – MRI-Based Methods for Spinal Cord Atrophy Evaluation: A Comparison of Cervical Cord Cross-Sectional Area, Cervical Cord Volume, and Full Spinal Cord Volume in Patients with Aquaporin-4 Antibody Seropositive Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorders

AJNR Am J Neuroradiol. 2018 May 10. doi: 10.3174/ajnr.A5665

by Claudia Chien, Alexander U. Brandt, Felix Schmidt, Judith Bellmann-Strobl, Klemens Ruprecht, Friedemann Paul, Michael Scheel

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Measures for spinal cord atrophy have become increasingly important as imaging biomarkers in the assessment of neuroinflammatory diseases, especially in neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders. The most commonly used method, mean upper cervical cord area, is relatively easy to measure and can be performed on brain MRIs that capture cervical myelon. Measures of spinal cord volume (eg, cervical cord volume or total cord volume) require longer scanning and more complex analysis but are potentially better suited as spinal cord atrophy measures. This study investigated spinal cord atrophy measures in a cohort of healthy subjects and patients with aquaporin-4 antibody seropositive neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders and evaluated the discriminatory performance of mean upper cervical cord cross-sectional area compared with cervical cord volume and total cord volume.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Mean upper cervical cord area, cervical cord volume, and total cord volume were measured using 3T MRIs from healthy subjects (n = 19) and patients with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (n = 30). Group comparison and receiver operating characteristic analyses between healthy controls and patients with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders were performed.
RESULTS: Mean upper cervical cord area, cervical cord volume, and total cord volume measures showed similar and highly significant group differences between healthy control subjects and patients with neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (P < .01 for all). All 3 measures showed similar receiver operating characteristic-area under the curve values (mean upper cervical cord area = 0.70, cervical cord volume = 0.75, total cord volume = 0.77) with no significant difference between them. No associations among mean upper cervical cord  cross-sectional area, cervical cord volume, or total cord volume with disability measures were found.
CONCLUSIONS: All 3 measures showed similar discriminatory power between healthy control and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders groups. Mean upper cervical cord area is easier to obtain compared with cervical cord volume and total cord volume and can be regarded as an efficient representative measure of spinal cord atrophy in the neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders context.

Kuchling et al. – Comparison of probabilistic tractography and tract-based spatial statistics for assessing optic radiation damage in patients with autoimmune inflammatory disorders of the central nervous system

NeuroImage Clin. 2018 May 8;19:538-550.

by Joseph Kuchling, Yael Backner, Frederike C.Oertel, Noa Raz, Judith Bellmann-Strobl, Klemens Ruprecht, Friedemann Paul, Netta Levin, Alexander U. Brandt, Michael Scheel

Background: Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) can evaluate microstructural tissue damage in the optic radiation (OR) of patients with clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), early relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD). Different post-processing techniques, e.g. tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) and probabilistic tractography, exist to quantify this damage.

Objective: To evaluate the capacity of TBSS-based atlas region-of-interest (ROI) combination with 1) posterior thalamic radiation ROIs from the Johns Hopkins University atlas (JHU-TBSS), 2) Juelich Probabilistic ROIs (JUEL-TBSS) and tractography methods using 3) ConTrack (CON-PROB) and 4) constrained spherical deconvolution tractography (CSD-PROB) to detect OR damage in patients with a) NMOSD with prior ON (NMOSD-ON), b) CIS and early RRMS patients with ON (CIS/RRMS-ON) and c) CIS and early RRMS patients without prior ON (CIS/RRMS-NON) against healthy controls (HCs).

Methods: Twenty-three NMOSD-ON, 18 CIS/RRMS-ON, 21 CIS/RRMS-NON, and 26 HCs underwent 3 T MRI. DTI data analysis was carried out using JUEL-TBSS, JHU-TBSS, CON-PROB and CSD-PROB. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) and visual acuity testing was performed in the majority of patients and HCs.

Results: Absolute OR fractional anisotropy (FA) values differed between all methods but showed good correlation and agreement in Bland-Altman analysis. OR FA values between NMOSD and HC differed throughout the methodologies (p-values ranging from p < 0.0001 to 0.0043). ROC-analysis and effect size estimation revealed higher AUCs and R2 for CSD-PROB (AUC = 0.812; R2 = 0.282) and JHU-TBSS (AUC = 0.756; R2 = 0.262), compared to CON-PROB (AUC = 0.742; R2 = 0.179) and JUEL-TBSS (AUC = 0.719; R2 = 0.161). Differences between CIS/RRMS-NON and HC were only observable in CSD-PROB (AUC = 0.796; R2 = 0.094). No significant differences between CIS/RRMS-ON and HC were detected by any of the methods.

Conclusions: All DTI post-processing techniques facilitated the detection of OR damage in patient groups with severe microstructural OR degradation. The comparison of distinct disease groups by use of different methods may lead to different – either false-positive or false-negative – results. Since different DTI post-processing approaches seem to provide complementary information on OR damage, application of distinct methods may depend on the relevant research question.