Neonatal EEG: a powerful tool in the assessment of brain damage in preterm infants

Brain Dev. 1999 Sep;21(6):361-72. doi: 10.1016/s0387-7604(99)00034-0.


Serial EEG recordings beginning immediately after birth are not only of great diagnostic and prognostic value but also useful to elucidate the timing and the mode of brain injuries in the preterm newborn. It is extremely useful to distinguish between acute stage and chronic stage EEG abnormalities. The former is characterized by findings of acute depression such as increased discontinuity, decreased faster frequency activities, and lowered amplitudes. The latter mainly includes dysmature patterns and disorganized patterns. The timing of brain insult can be assessed by considering EEG findings in relation to the time of birth. Different modes of brain injury are associated with different types of EEG abnormalities and different types of neurological outcome. Sudden strong brain insults are usually associated with findings of severe depression followed by disorganized pattern and later cerebral palsy, while persistent mild insults are usually associated with prolonged mild depression followed by dysmature pattern and later mental retardation. Routine serial EEG studies in preterm infants demonstrated that one fourth of cerebral palsies in these infants were of antenatal origin, two thirds of perinatal origin and postnatal injuries played the least role. Periventricular leucomalacia (PVL) manifesting itself on the ultrasound in the late neonatal period and suggesting postnatal origin was often found to be of antenatal origin with an EEG soon after birth. PVL without apparent causes was often associated with abnormal fetal heart rate patterns and early neonatal EEG abnormalities, and considered to have originated in the antepartum period.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Damage, Chronic / diagnosis*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / physiopathology
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*