Visual electrophysiology in the clinical evaluation of optic neuritis, chiasmal tumours, achiasmia, and ocular albinism: an overview
Background and Methods In routine clinical evaluation of optic neuritis and chiasmal tumours, pattern electroretinography and visual evoked potentials (VEPs) to pattern-reversal stimulation are useful examinations. Similarly, in achiasmia and ocular albinism, VEPs to flash and pattern-onset stimulation provide relevant information. Results The role of visual electrophysiology in these diseases is to assess potential dysfunction of the visual pathway: (a) at the acute stage of optic neuritis, to determine the magnitude of conduction block of the optic nerve fibres; (b) at the clinical recovery stage of optic neuritis, to determine optic nerve conduction delay due to demyelination, and to follow possible remyelination; (c) at the recovery of optic neuritis when visual acuity does not normalise, to define loss of optic nerve fibres and retrograde degeneration of retinal ganglion cells; (d) in tumours at the chiasm, to detect abnormal conduction along the crossed and/or uncrossed fibres; and (e) in achiasmia or albinism, which are both congenital disorders associated with nystagmus, to detect achiasmia and absence of or reduced optic nerve fibre decussation at the chiasm, or to detect ocular albinism and excess of optic nerve fibre decussation at the chiasm. In optic neuritis, two recent examinations have been used to detect retrograde axonal degeneration: photopic negative response of the electroretinogram, to assess dysfunction of ganglion cell axons; and optic coherence tomography, to measure thinning of the retinal nerve fibre layer. In optic neuritis, multifocal VEPs provide a promising clinical examination, because this can show areas that are associated with normal or abnormal optic nerve fibre function. Conclusions Visual electrophysiology defines function of the visual pathway and is relevant: (1) in optic neuritis, when visual acuity does not recover well; (2) in tumours of the chiasm with normal visual fields, as in paediatric patients who cannot adequately perform perimetry; and (3) in children with congenital nystagmus and suspected achiasmia or ocular albinism.
KeywordsVEP PERG Optic neuritis Tumours of the chiasm Achiasmia Albinism
I am grateful to my mentor professor Tine S Prevec MD, PhD and to Martin A Halliday MD, for their teaching in the field of the Visual Evoked Potentials, and to Anthony Kriss PhD, for his guidance in Paediatric electrophysiology. I am thankful to Maja Šuštar PhD and Barbara Klemenc for preparing figures. This was presented at the Symposium on Clinical Neurophysiology of Vision and on Eye Movements with the 26th Dr. Janez Faganel Memorial Lecture, Ljubljana, 17–18 September 2010. Grant of Slovenian Research Agency (P3-0333).
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