Discriminative power of intra-retinal layers in early multiple sclerosis using 3D OCT imaging



To evaluate volumetric changes and discriminative power of intra-retinal layers in early-stage multiple sclerosis (MS) using a 3D optical coherence tomography (OCT) imaging method based on an in-house segmentation algorithm.


3D analysis of intra-retinal layers was performed in 71 patients with early-stage MS (mean disease duration 2.2 ± 3.5 years) at baseline and 40 healthy controls (HCs). All patients underwent a follow-up OCT scan within 23 ± 9 months. Patients with a clinical episode of optic neuritis (ON) more than 6 months prior to study entrance were compared with patients who never experienced clinical symptoms of an ON episode (NON).


Significantly decreased total retinal volume (TRV), macular retinal nerve fiber layer (mRNFL) and ganglion cell—inner plexiform layer (GCIPL) volumes were detected in ON patients compared to NON patients (all p values < 0.05) at baseline. Each parameter on its own allowed identification of prior clinical ON based on a discriminative model (ROC analysis). Over time, TRV decreased in both ON (p = 0.013) and NON patients (p = 0.002), whereas mRNFL volume (p = 0.028) decreased only in ON and GCIPL volume (p = 0.003) decreased only in NON patients.


Our 3D-OCT data demonstrated that TRV, mRNFL and GCIPL allow discrimination between ON and NON patients in a cross-sectional analysis. However, the subsequent retinal atrophy pattern diverges in the initial phase of MS: Prior ON promotes sustained axonal thinning over time indicated by mRNFL loss, whereas longitudinal measurement of GCIPL volume better depicts continuous retrograde neurodegeneration in NON patients in early-stage MS.

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This study was funded by the German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) German Competence Network Multiple Sclerosis (KKNMS) to FZ, SG, SGM and HW. We would like to thank Dr. Cheryl Ernest for proofreading the manuscript. The results presented are part of the doctoral thesis of LZ.

Author information




CBS and AD analyzed and interpreted the data and wrote the manuscript. LZ collected and analyzed the data. MP developed the 3D expansion of the 2D automatic segmentation algorithm. LK, HW, JK and SGM organized patient recruitment and logistics and provided clinical information. SG helped to conceptualize the study, analyzed and interpreted the data. FZ and VF designed the project, were responsible for the concept, generated funding, organized patient recruitment, provided clinical information and wrote the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Vinzenz Fleischer.

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This study was approved by the local ethics committees at the University Medical Centers in Mainz (Germany) and Münster (Germany) and performed in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. All participants gave their informed consent.

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Seitz, C.B., Droby, A., Zaubitzer, L. et al. Discriminative power of intra-retinal layers in early multiple sclerosis using 3D OCT imaging. J Neurol 265, 2284–2294 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00415-018-8988-3

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  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Optic neuritis
  • MS
  • Neuroimmunology