The role of optical coherence tomography in the diagnosis of afferent visual pathway problems: A neuroophthalmic perspective

Fiona Costello, John J. Chen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a noninvasive ocular imaging technique that has become a standard tool in neuroophthalmic practice. Specifically, OCT captures retinal manifestations of neuroaxonal injury caused by lesions along anterior and posterior regions of the afferent visual pathway, in patients presenting with vision loss. More recently, the advent of OCT angiography (OCTA) has enabled evaluation of the choroidal and retinal microvasculature, thus informing our understanding regarding vascular mechanisms associated with optic nerve and retinal injuries. Much of our longitudinal experience with OCT in the field of neuroophthalmology has been acquired from the study of optic neuritis (ON) caused by inflammatory disorders of the central nervous system (CNS). Over the past two decades, OCT has emerged as a surrogate endpoint for CNS neuroaxonal injury in multiple sclerosis (MS) research trials. On a more pragmatic level, OCT is used in the clinical arena to diagnose ON associated with: MS, neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), and myelin oligodendrocyte glycoprotein (MOG) antibody associated disease (MOGAD). Subsequent advancements in swept-source (SS) and enhanced depth imaging (EDI) have established OCT as the new “gold standard” in the diagnosis of optic disc drusen. Recent studies have highlighted pathognomonic OCT features that distinguish cases of true papilledema from pseudopapilledema, in patients presenting with undifferentiated optic disc elevation. Preoperative OCT measures of neuroaxonal integrity have shown prognostic value in predicting postoperative visual outcomes for patients with compressive anterior visual pathway lesions. Finally, OCT is indispensable in differentiating optic neuropathies from retinal diseases in patients with visual loss and a nondiagnostic fundus examination. An in-depth discussion regarding the technical aspects of OCT is beyond the scope of this chapter. Instead, we wish to highlight the value OCT brings to the diagnosis and management of common neuroophthalmic conditions, with emphasis on optic neuropathies and retinal disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook of Clinical Neurology
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages17
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Publication series

NameHandbook of Clinical Neurology
ISSN (Print)0072-9752
ISSN (Electronic)2212-4152


  • Ganglion cell layer
  • OCT
  • OCT angiography
  • Optic disc drusen
  • Optic neuritis
  • Optical coherence tomography
  • Papilledema
  • Retinal nerve fiber layer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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