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Noninvasive transorbital alternating current stimulation improves subjective visual functioning and vision-related quality of life in optic neuropathy

Brain Stimulation
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.brs.2011.07.003
  • Quality Of Life
  • Alternating Current Stimulation
  • Vision Recovery
  • Plasticity
  • Optic Neuropathy


Background Noninvasive repetitive transorbital alternating current stimulation (rtACS) can improve visual field size in patients with optic nerve damage, but it is not known if this is of subjective relevance. We now assessed patient reported outcomes to determine the association between visual field changes and vision-related quality of life (QoL). Methods Patients having visual field impairments long after optic nerve damage (mean lesion age 5.5 years) were randomly assigned to a rtACS (n = 24) or sham stimulation group (n = 18). Visual fields and patient reported outcome measures (vision-related QoL: National Eye Institute Visual Function Questionnaire, NEI-VFQ and health-related QoL: Short Form Health Survey, SF-36) were collected before and after a 10-day treatment course with daily sessions of 20 to 40 minutes. The primary outcome measure was the percent change from baseline of detection ability (DA) in defective visual field sectors as defined by computer-based high resolution perimetry (HRP). Secondary outcome parameters included further HRP parameters as well as static and kinetic perimetry results. Changes in QoL measures were correlated with changes in primary and secondary outcome measures in both groups. Results DA increase in the defective visual field was significantly larger after rtACS (41.1 ± 78.9%, M ± SD) than after sham stimulation (13.6 ± 26.3%), P < 0.05. While there was a significant increase of DA in the whole tested HRP visual field after rtACS (26.8 ± 76.7%, P < 0.05), DA in sham-stimulation patients remained largely unchanged (2.7 ± 20.2%, ns). Results of secondary outcome measures (static and kinetic perimetry) provided further evidence of rtACS efficacy. Improvements in NEI-VFQ subscale “general vision” were observed in both groups but were larger in the rtACS group (11.3 ± 13.5, Z = −3.21, P < 0.001) than in the sham group (4.2 ± 9.4, Z = −1.73, P < 0.05) with a significant difference between groups (Z = −1.71, P < 0.05). DA change and some NEI-VFQ domains were correlated ( r = 0.29, P < 0.05), but no significant correlations were observed between DA and SF-36 results. Conclusions rtACS facilitates vision restoration after unilateral, long-term optic nerve lesion as assessed both by objective DA changes and improvements in some NEI-VFQ subscales. Both were positively but low correlated, which suggests that factors other than visual field size also contribute to improved vision-related QoL.

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