Objective: To characterize the range of abnormalities within the periventricular white matter (PVWM) in a cohort of newborns using magnetic resonance (MR) brain imaging and to compare the focal MR abnormalities with the cranial ultrasound (CUS) findings.
Methods: Retrospective study of MR brain and CUS findings of infants born in the 18-month period 1998-1999. PVWM abnormalities were identified by MR and focal lesions were characterized by size, number and distribution using a grading scale. Correspondence with CUS findings was assessed.
Results: 175 MR examinations corresponding to n = 105 preterm infants, (median GA 28, range 23-36 weeks) and n = 25 term infants (median GA 39, range 37-42 weeks) were analysed for PVWM abnormalities. In the preterm group, MR demonstrated a normal PVWM in n = 76, focal areas of altered signal intensity (SI) in PVWM in n = 26 and venous infarction in n = 3. In the term group, MR demonstrated a normal PVWM in n = 15, focal areas of altered SI in PVWM in n = 4, oedematous PVWM in n = 2 and a middle cerebral artery infarction in n = 4. All infants with normal MR had normal CUS findings. A focal PVWM SI abnormality detectable on MR corresponded with an abnormality on CUS in only n = 10/30.
Conclusions: MR appears considerably more sensitive than CUS in demonstrating the existence and extent of focal PVWM lesions in newborn infants. Satisfactory correspondence between the two imaging investigations is obtained only for cystic PVWM lesions.