Detection of optic neuritis on routine brain MRI without and with the assistance of an image postprocessing algorithm

A. Schroeder, G. Van Stavern, H. L.P. Orlowski, L. Stunkel, M. S. Parsons, L. Rhea, A. Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: At times, there is a clinical need for using routine brain MR imaging performed close to the time of onset of patients' visual symptoms to firmly establish the diagnosis of optic neuritis. Our aim was to assess the diagnostic performance of radiologists in detecting optic neuritis on routine brain MR images and whether this performance could be enhanced using a postprocessing algorithm. Materials and Methods: In this retrospective case-control study of 60 patients (37 women, 23 men; mean age, 47.2 [SD, 17.9] years), 2 blinded neuroradiologists evaluated T2-weighted FLAIR and contrast-enhanced T1WI from brain MR imaging for the presence of imaging evidence of optic neuritis. Images were processed using an image-processing algorithm that aimed to selectively accentuate the signal intensity of diseased optic nerves. We assessed the effect of image processing on the contrast-to-noise ratio between the optic nerves and normal-appearing white matter and on the diagnostic performance of the neuroradiologists, including the interobserver reliability. Results: The average sensitivity of readers was 55%, 56.5%, and 30.0% on FLAIR, coronal contrast-enhanced T1WI, and axial contrast- enhanced T1WI, respectively. Sensitivities were lower in the absence of fat saturation on FLAIR (P = .001) and coronal contrast- enhanced T1WI (P = .04). Processing increased the contrast-to-noise ratio of diseased (P value range = .03 to <.001) but not of control optic nerves. Processing did not improve the sensitivity but improved the specificity and positive predictive value. Interobserver agreement improved from slight to good. Conclusions: Detection of optic neuritis on routine brain MR imaging is challenging. Specificity, positive predictive value, and interobserver agreement can be improved by postprocessing of MR images.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1130-1135
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Neuroradiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2021


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