Purpose of review
Congenital anomalies of the optic nerve are rare but significant causes of visual dysfunction in children and adults. Accurate diagnosis is dependent on a thorough funduscopic examination, but can be enhanced by imaging information garnered from optical coherence tomography (OCT). We review common congenital optic nerve anomalies, including optic disc pit, optic nerve coloboma, morning glory disc anomaly, and hypoplasia of the optic nerve, review their systemic associations, and discuss insights from OCT imaging.
Optic disc pits are a result of a defect in the lamina cribrosa and abnormal vitreomacular adhesions have been shown to cause maculopathy. In patients with optic nerve colobomas, OCT can be instrumental in diagnosing choroidal neovascularization, a rare but visually devastating complication. The pathogenesis of morning glory disc anomaly has been more clearly elucidated by OCT as occurring from a secondary postnatal mesenchymal abnormality rather than only the initial neuroectodermal dysgenesis of the terminal optic stalk in isolation. OCT studies of optic nerve hypoplasia have demonstrated significant thinning of the inner and outer retinal layers of the perifoveal region and thicker layers in the fovea itself, resulting in a foveal hypoplasia-like pathology, that is, significantly correlated to poorer visual outcomes.
OCT provides detailed in-vivo analysis of these anatomic anomalies and their resulting pathologies, shedding new insights on the pathogenesis, diagnosis, and potential visual outcomes of these conditions in children. Further study employing OCT to elucidate structure–function relationships of congenital optic nerve anomalies will help expand the role of OCT in clinical practice related to diagnosis, prognosis, and management of these entities.