The purpose of this study was to evaluate the neuroprotective effect of memantine, a N-methyl-D-aspartate antagonist, in an experimental optic nerve ischemia. Endothelin-1 (ET-1) in a dosage of 0.1 microg/day was delivered to the perineural region of the anterior optic nerve by osmotically driven minipumps for 8 weeks in 10 rabbits. In 5 rabbits, 1 mg/kg memantine was administered concurrently by intramuscular injection once a daily. Morphologic optic nerve head changes were monitored with a confocal scanning laser ophthalmoscope. Multivariate statistical analysis showed a significant change in topometric parameters (cup area, cup depth and rim volume), indicating an increase in optic nerve head cupping and a decrease of neural rim volume in the ET-1 administered eyes (P < 0.0001). In rabbits where memantine was given concurrently with ET-1, no significant change in topometric parameters was observed after ET-1 administration (P = 0.78). The current results suggest that memantine has a neuroprotective effect in optic nerve ischemia. Memantine may potentially be useful in the management of various ischemic disorders of the optic nerve, including glaucoma.
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