(HealthDay News) – Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) with clinical or radiologic nonocular disease activity have accelerated ganglion cell/inner plexiform (GCIP) layer thinning, according to a study published in the Jan. 1 issue of Neurology.

John N. Ratchford, MD, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted spectral-domain optical coherence tomography (OCT) scans every six months on 164 patients with MS and 59 controls for a mean follow-up period of 21.1 months. Contrast-enhanced brain magnetic resonance imaging scans were performed at baseline and annually.

The researchers observed significantly faster rates of annualized GCIP thinning in patients with relapses (42% faster), new gadolinium-enhancing lesions (54% faster), and new T2 lesions (36% faster). In addition, faster annual GCIP thinning was seen for those with disability progression during follow-up (37% faster) and for those with disease duration of <5 vs. >5 years (43% faster). Patients exhibiting combinations of new gadolinium-enhancing lesions, new T2 lesions, and disease duration <5 years had the highest annual rates of GCIP thinning (70% faster in patients with vs. without all three characteristics).

“Our findings suggest that retinal changes in MS reflect global central nervous system processes, and that OCT-derived GCIP thickness measures may have utility as an outcome measure for assessing neuroprotective agents, particularly in early, active MS,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical and medical technology industries.

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