Accuracy of routine fat-suppressed FLAIR and diffusion-weighted images in detecting clinically evident acute optic neuritis

Alexander M McKinney, Brandon D. Lohman, Basar Sarikaya, Michael Benson, Michael S Lee, Manferd T. Benson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


Background: Contrast-enhanced, fat-suppressed T1-weighted imaging (CET1WI) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is quite sensitive in detecting acute optic neuritis (ON), but ON remains a clinical diagnosis. MRI is indicated to evaluate demyelinating brain lesions rather than the optic nerves, while "routine" brain protocols typically include axial FLAIR and DWI. Purpose: To evaluate the accuracy of axial, fat-suppressed FLAIR and DWI sequences used for our routine brain imaging in detecting acute ON, as compared to CET1WI and the clinical diagnosis. Material and Methods: The clinical data and MRI examinations were retrospectively reviewed of 60 patients presenting to a neuro-ophthalmologist for various visual symptoms. Each patient underwent dedicated neuro-ophthalmologic examination, with axial 5 mm fat-suppressed FLAIR and DWI (part of "routine" brain MRI protocol), as well as 3 mm axial and coronal fat-suppressed CET1WI (part of dedicated orbit MRI protocol). Two neuroradiologists independently evaluated FLAIR and DWI, while CET1WI was reviewed by consensus. Results: Thirty-one patients were clinically positive, 29 negative for ON (total = 34 positive and 86 negative nerves). The sensitivities of FLAIR, DWI, and CET1WI for ON were 75.7-77.3%, 77.3%, and 89.5%, respectively; the specificities were 90.5-93.5%, 80.4-82.7%, and 86.0%, respectively; the accuracies were 85.7-88.2%, 79.5-81.1%, and 87.0%, respectively. Inter-observer kappa was 0.783 for FLAIR, and 0.605 for DWI; intra-observer kappa was 0.746-0.816 for FLAIR, and 0.674-0.699 for DWI (each P < 0.0001). Conclusion: Being more specific, but not as sensitive, as dedicated CET1WI in acute ON, axial fat-suppressed FLAIR likely has additional value in evaluating for acute ON in "routine" brain MR protocols evaluating for demyelinating disease, while DWI may be hampered by artifacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)455-461
Number of pages7
JournalActa Radiologica
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Eye
  • Head/neck
  • Inflammation
  • MR diffusion
  • MR imaging
  • Orbit


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