Clinical neuroimaging in the preterm infant: Diagnosis and prognosis

Manuel Hinojosa-Rodríguez, Thalía Harmony, Cristina Carrillo-Prado, John Darrell Van Horn, Andrei Irimia, Carinna Torgerson, Zachary Jacokes
NeuroImage: Clinical 2017, 16: 355-368
Perinatal care advances emerging over the past twenty years have helped to diminish the mortality and severe neurological morbidity of extremely and very preterm neonates (e.g., cystic Periventricular Leukomalacia [c-PVL] and Germinal Matrix Hemorrhage - Intraventricular Hemorrhage [GMH-IVH grade 3-4/4]; 22 to < 32 weeks of gestational age, GA). However, motor and/or cognitive disabilities associated with mild-to-moderate white and gray matter injury are frequently present in this population (e.g., non-cystic Periventricular Leukomalacia [non-cystic PVL], neuronal-axonal injury and GMH-IVH grade 1-2/4). Brain research studies using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) report that 50% to 80% of extremely and very preterm neonates have diffuse white matter abnormalities (WMA) which correspond to only the minimum grade of severity. Nevertheless, mild-to-moderate diffuse WMA has also been associated with significant affectations of motor and cognitive activities. Due to increased neonatal survival and the intrinsic characteristics of diffuse WMA, there is a growing need to study the brain of the premature infant using non-invasive neuroimaging techniques sensitive to microscopic and/or diffuse lesions. This emerging need has led the scientific community to try to bridge the gap between concepts or ideas from different methodologies and approaches; for instance, neuropathology, neuroimaging and clinical findings. This is evident from the combination of intense pre-clinical and clinicopathologic research along with neonatal neurology and quantitative neuroimaging research. In the following review, we explore literature relating the most frequently observed neuropathological patterns with the recent neuroimaging findings in preterm newborns and infants with perinatal brain injury. Specifically, we focus our discussions on the use of neuroimaging to aid diagnosis, measure morphometric brain damage, and track long-term neurodevelopmental outcomes.

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