Diffusion-weighted imaging in neonates

Childs Nerv Syst. 2001 Apr;17(4-5):190-4. doi: 10.1007/s003810000280.


Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) can readily be performed in the neonate, although currently studies remain a few years behind-those carried out on adults. DWI relies on the random diffusion of water molecules. As for the adult population, a pulsed gradient spin echo sequence (PGSE) with cardiac gating can be used to exploit the effect of diffusion on image contrast and to determine the apparent diffusion coefficient (D*) for tissues or fluids. Anisotropic properties caused by the restriction of the movement of water molecules may be demonstrated. In the neonatal brain restricted motion can be detected in both myelinated and unmyelinated white matter tracts. DWI has been used to study changes in global and focal ischaemic injury to the neonatal brain. A decreased D* may be documented after an ischaemic insult followed by a gradual increase. These changes are consistent with animal data but show a slower time course. Intervention following perinatal ischaemic injury must be started within hours. DWI detects early ischaemic injury and may therefore be a useful tool for identifying those infants who could benefit from intervention.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Infarction / diagnosis*
  • Diffusion
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain / diagnosis*
  • Image Enhancement*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Prognosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity