Objective: The goal of this study was to test the feasibility of visualizing a 3-dimensional structure of cerebral white matter fiber tracts in preterm infants, postconceptional age (PCA) 28 weeks to term, by using volumetric diffusion tensor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) data.
Materials and method: We combined tractography algorithms and visualization methods, currently available for adult DTI data, to trace the pixelated principal direction of a diffusion tensor originating from regions-of-interest with high fractional anisotropy. Consequently, white matter fiber bundles from the genu and the splenium of corpus callosum, the corticospinal tracts, the inferior fronto-occipital fasciculi, and optic radiations were visualized.
Results: Our results suggest that major white matter tracts of preterm infant brains, with PCAs ranging from 28 weeks to term (40 weeks old), can be successfully visualized despite the small brain volume and low anisotropy.
Conclusion: The feasibility of fiber tractography in preterm neonates with DTI may add a new dimension in detection and characterization of white matter injuries of preterm infants.