Retinal optical coherence tomography measurements in patients with potential and definite neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) are significantly lower than in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) and healthy people, according to the results of a new study that appeared in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders

The measurements could therefore be helpful in supporting a diagnosis of NMOSD. According to the authors, larger studies should explore their potential “as a valuable addition to the current consensus diagnostic criteria.”

Read more about the consensus diagnostic criteria for NMSOD

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It was already known that retinal optical coherence tomography can differentiate between NMSOD and MS. However, its ability to detect NMSOD not fulfilling the current consensus diagnostic criteria has not been tested previously. 

In the present study, a team of researchers led by Samia J. Khoury, MD, from the Department of Neurology, Nehme and Therese Tohme Multiple Sclerosis Center at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon compared the retinal optical coherence tomography measurements of 33 patients with definite NMOSD, 20 patients with probable NMOSD, 138 patients with MS, and 43 healthy volunteers.

They found that patients with probable NMOSD had decreased thickness in the ganglion cell/inner plexiform layer and peripapillary and macular retinal nerve fiber layer as well as reduced macular volume similar to patients with definite NMOSD. This was the case even after adjustment for age, gender, duration of disease, and history of optic neuritis per eye. This decrease was significant compared to patients with MS and healthy controls. 

When the researchers analyzed only the eye with a history of optic neuritis, these thicknesses—as well as that of the inner nuclear layer—were also reduced.

The team concluded that retinal optical coherence tomography measurements can help identify patients with NMOSD who do not fulfill the current consensus diagnostic criteria for the disease. 


Ayoubi NKE, Moussa H, Younes A, Haddad R, Khoury SJ. Use of retinal optical coherence tomography to differentiate suspected neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder from multiple sclerosis: a cross-sectional study. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2022;68:104160. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2022.104160