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Visual evoked potential (VEP) and multifocal electroretinogram (mfERG) in ocular syphilitic posterior segment inflammation

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The aim of this study is to correlate multifocal electroretinogram (mfERG) and visual evoked potential (VEP) changes with visual acuity and clinical features in patients with posterior segment inflammation secondary to syphilis. A retrospective interventional case series of 4 patients with visual loss secondary to syphilitic uveitis is reported. The mfERG (P1) showed diminished amplitudes and prolonged latency in 7 affected eyes. Visual acuity rapidly improved 2 weeks after initiation of therapy. OCT demonstrated anatomical recovery at 1 month. In three patients, visual acuity was restored to 6/6 at 6–9 months but mfERG responses remained significantly reduced and delayed for 12–15 months before recovery to normal levels. One patient developed a retinal detachment, but achieved 6/9 vision at 30 months. VEP changes, interpreted in combination with mfERG responses, showed evidence of optic nerve involvement in 6 eyes. Ocular findings, including posterior placoid chorioretinitis, are important diagnostic features of secondary and tertiary syphilis. Visual acuity and clinical recovery occur early with appropriate diagnosis and treatment, and precede full electrophysiological recovery of the outer retina-RPE complex. Ophthalmologists have the opportunity to play a key role in undetected or missed diagnoses of syphilis, and with appropriate treatment the visual prognosis is excellent.

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Correspondence to Winfried M. Amoaku.

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Alexander, P., Wen, Y., Baxter, J.M. et al. Visual evoked potential (VEP) and multifocal electroretinogram (mfERG) in ocular syphilitic posterior segment inflammation. Doc Ophthalmol 125, 169–178 (2012).

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