Fifteen premature infants with lethal congenital cytomegalovirus infection were studied to determine the clinical, neuroradiological, and neuropathological characteristics of the disease in this population. Nine infants were liveborn but died at a postnatal age of 18 +/- 21 days; 6 infants were stillborn. Clinical findings in liveborn infants included microcephaly (77%), seizures (55%), hypotonia (33%), and multiple contractures (18%). Ophthalmological findings included chorioretinitis, optic atrophy, and corneal opacities. Neuroradiological findings included the postnatal evolution of periventricular calcification in 1 infant, and cerebellar hypoplasia diagnosed by magnetic resonance imaging in 1 infant. Neuropathological findings included periventricular necrosis and calcification (12), associated diffuse calcification frequently involving the convexity of the gyri (6), cerebellar hypoplasia (5), periventricular leukomalacia (2), intraventricular hemorrhage (2), hydrocephalus (2), and porencephalic cyst (1). Intranuclear inclusion bodies within the brain were observed in 4 infants, whereas systemic inclusion bodies were present in all infants. These data indicate several atypical findings in preterm infants rarely reported in term infants, including hypotonia, multiple contractures, periventricular leukomalacia, and optic atrophy.