The diagnostic yield of the evaluation for isolated unexplained optic atrophy

Andrew G. Lee, Felix Y. Chau, Karl C. Golnik, Randy H. Kardon, Michael Wall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Purpose: To report the diagnostic yield for the evaluation of isolated and unexplained optic atrophy. Setting: Two tertiary care academic neuroophthalmology clinics. Design: Retrospective case series. Participants: Patients with optic atrophy. Methods: Retrospective review of all charts with the diagnosis of optic atrophy. Included patients were adults with isolated, but unexplained, optic atrophy. Patients were excluded if they were children, had incomplete or inadequate documentation of the findings, had nonneurologically isolated optic atrophy (e.g., other localizing findings), or had a history (e.g., prior neuroimaging study showed a compressive lesion, prior ischemic optic neuropathy) or examination (e.g., central retinal artery occlusion) evidence for an etiology for the optic atrophy. Main Outcome Measure: Results of diagnostic evaluation. Results: A total of 1110 charts with the diagnosis of optic atrophy were reviewed from the 2 participating institutions (368 from the University of Cincinnati and 742 from the University of Iowa). Of these 1110 charts, 91 (8%) with isolated unexplained optic atrophy were included, and 1019 charts (92%) were excluded. Of 91 included patients, 18 (20%) had a compressive lesion causing optic atrophy, and 73 (80%) cases had no etiology for the optic atrophy on neuroimaging. Of the 18 patients with abnormal imaging (e.g., meningioma, pituitary adenoma, craniopharyngioma) studies, 11 had bilateral and 7 had unilateral optic atrophy. Five of the 18 patients had progressive visual loss, 3 had hemianopic visual field loss, and 11 were younger than 50 years old. Conclusions: Patients with optic atrophy in our study typically had historical or examination findings that led to an etiologic diagnosis. Neuroimaging showed an etiology in 20% of patients. Other laboratory testing did not produce an etiologic diagnosis in the absence of a suggestive history or examination. On the basis of our results, we recommend neuroimaging for all patients with unexplained optic atrophy and consideration for directed laboratory studies only.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)757-759
Number of pages3
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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