Correlation between optic disc atrophy and aetiology: Anterior ischaemic optic neuropathy vs optic neuritis

E. Z. Rath, U. Rehany, S. Linn, Shimon Rumelt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. The morphologic features of swollen disc in the acute stage of optic neuritis and anterior ischaemic optic neuropathy (AION) have been extensively investigated in contrast to the morphologic features of optic disc atrophy after these events. Objective: A prospective study to evaluate the morphologic features of optic disc atrophy 6 months or more after optic neuritis and nonarteritic AION. Patients and methods. A total of 35 optic discs after nonarteritic AION (n=27) and 24 after optic neuritis (n=19) in otherwise healthy subjects have been evaluated by direct fundoscopic examination with a +90 diopters lens and optic disc photography. The average age of patients at the onset of AION was 57.8 years (range: 38-80) and at the onset of optic neuritis was 32.6 (range: 19-46). The female:male ratio was 18:17 in the former and 15:9 in the latter. The evaluated parameters included: degree of rim pallor (0 to +3), location of rim pallor, height of rim above the retina, depth and width of cup, peripapillary retinal artery to vein (A:V) ratio, and peripapillary pigment epithelial atrophy. A comparison was made also with 17 age-matched normal discs of 17 patients. Statistical significance was calculated with χ2 and Fisher's exact test. Results. Most of the discs after AION were paler (+2: 70%, +3: 26%) than after optic neuritis (normal colour: 8%, +1: 58%, P≤0.007). Rim segmental involvement after AION was usually either superior 'altitudinal' (53%) or inferior 'altitudinal' (29%), whereas after optic neuritis, it was usually either temporal-central (papillomacular) (42%) or diffuse temporal (42%, P<0.0001). Discs had lower A: V ratio (1:3, 40%) after AION compared with optic neuritis (1:3, 8%) (P=0.007). There were no significant differences between the two groups in height of the rim, cupping, and peripapillary atrophy. Conclusions: A combination of the degree of rim pallor, location of rim pallor, and A:V ratio may be of value in assessing the aetiology of optic disc atrophy when no previous clinical data are available and a compressive lesion has been ruled out.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1019-1024
Number of pages6
Issue number9
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Anterior ischaemic optic neuropathy
  • Diagnosis
  • Optic atrophy
  • Optic disc
  • Optic neuritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sensory Systems
  • Ophthalmology


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