Retinal thickness is a significant independent predictor of worsening disability in multiple sclerosis (MS) and should be incorporated into clinical trials and treatment decisions, according to a large longitudinal cohort study presented at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Annual Meeting

“OCT is not yet a standard exam, but I think this study should promote a change,” said Elena H. Martínez-Lapiscina, MD, PhD, a neurologist and associate researcher at the Institut d’Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer (IDIBAPS) of the University of Barcelona in Spain. “You can send the patients for the OCT acquisition and get results in 20 minutes, without any processing of data. It’s very valuable information. Patients whose pRNFL thickness is lower than the proposed cut-off should be evaluated for defining the best therapeutic strategy.”

Optical coherence tomography (OCT), which is used to measure retinal thickness, can help clinicians predict multiple sclerosis (MS) progression two to five years later, according to an international longitudinal cohort study presented at the 2016 AAN Annual Meeting and published in Lancet Neurology. Overall, the researchers found that thinning in the peripapillary retinal nerve fiber of patients with either clinically isolated syndrome, relapsing-remitting MS, or progressive MS, as measured by OCT, was associated with a twofold risk of disability worsening at two to three years of follow-up. But independent experts stress that use of OCT in MS should be limited to clinical trials at this point, and more research is needed to assess its clinical utility. Neurology Today Editor-in-chief. Steven P. Ringel, MD, FAAN, and Associate Editor Dr. Robert G. Holloway Jr., MD, FAAN, discuss the study with Peter Calabresi, MD, FAAN, director of the neuroimmunology division at Johns Hopkins University.


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The American Academy of Neurology, an association of 30,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy.

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