MRI Signal Intensity Varies Along the Course of the Normal Optic Nerve

Michael L. Prairie, Mehmet Gencturk, Bruce R Lindgren, Collin M. McClelland, Michael S. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background:MRI can help distinguish various causes of optic neuropathy including optic neuritis. Importantly, neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD) has a propensity to cause enhancement of the prechiasmatic optic nerves. To determine whether the prechiasmatic optic nerve (PC-ON) demonstrates a different intensity from the midorbital optic nerve (MO-ON) on MRI among patients without optic neuropathy.Methods:Data were retrospectively obtained from 75 patients who underwent brain MRI for an ocular motor nerve palsy between January 2005 and April 2021. Inclusion criteria were patients aged 18 years or older with visual acuities of at least 20/25 and no evidence of optic neuropathy on neuro-ophthalmic examination. A total of 67 right eyes and 68 left eyes were assessed. A neuroradiologist performed quantitative intensity measurements of the MO-ON and PC-ON on precontrast and postcontrast T1 axial images. Normal-appearing temporalis muscle intensity was also measured and used as a reference to calculate an intensity ratio to calibrate across images.Results:The mean PC-ON intensity ratio was significantly higher than the MO-ON intensity ratio on both precontrast (19.6%, P < 0.01) and postcontrast images (14.2%, P < 0.01). Age, gender, and laterality did not independently affect measurements.Conclusions:The prechiasmatic optic nerve shows brighter intensity ratios on both precontrast and postcontrast T1 images than the midorbital optic nerve among normal optic nerves. Clinicians should recognize this subtle signal discrepancy when assessing patients with presumed optic neuropathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)509-513
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Neuro-Ophthalmology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023

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