Evaluation of optic neuropathy in multiple sclerosis using low-contrast visual evoked potentials

M. J. Thurtell, E. Bala, S. S. Yaniglos, J. C. Rucker, N. S. Peachey, R. J. Leigh

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33 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Contrast acuity (identification of low-contrast letters on a white BACKGROUND:) is frequently reduced in patients with demyelinating optic neuropathy associated with multiple sclerosis (MS), even when high-contrast (Snellen) visual acuity is normal. Since visual evoked potentials (VEPs) induced with high-contrast pattern-reversal stimuli are typically increased in latency in demyelinating optic neuropathy, we asked if VEPs induced with low-contrast stimuli would be more prolonged and thus helpful in identifying demyelinating optic neuropathy in MS. METHODS: We studied 15 patients with clinically definite MS and 15 age-matched normal controls. All subjects underwent a neuro-ophthalmologic assessment, including measurement of high-contrast visual acuity and low-contrast acuities with 25%, 10%, 5%, 2.5%, and 1.25% contrast Sloan charts. In patients with MS, peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness was determined using optical coherence tomography. Monocular VEPs were induced using pattern-reversal checkerboard stimuli with 100% and 10% contrast between checks, at 5 spatial frequencies (8-130 minutes of arc). RESULTS: VEP latencies were significantly increased in response to low-compared with high-contrast stimuli in both groups. VEP latencies were significantly greater in patients with MS than controls for both high-and low-contrast stimuli. VEP latencies correlated with high-and low-contrast visual acuities and RNFL thickness. VEPs were less likely to be induced with low-than with high-contrast stimuli in eyes with severe residual visual loss. CONCLUSIONS: Visual evoked potentials obtained in patients with multiple sclerosis using low-contrast stimuli are increased in latency or absent when compared with those obtained using high-contrast stimuli and, thus, may prove to be helpful in identifying demyelinating optic neuropathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1849-1857
Number of pages9
Issue number22
StatePublished - Dec 2009


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