The effect of preterm birth on neonatal cerebral vasculature studied with magnetic resonance angiography at 3 Tesla

Neuroimage. 2006 Sep;32(3):1050-9. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2006.05.051. Epub 2006 Jul 24.


Preterm birth is associated with a high incidence of neurodevelopmental deficits. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has proved to be a valuable tool for monitoring development in the preterm brain. We used a dedicated time-of-flight (TOF) magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) protocol at 3 Tesla (3T) optimized to assess morphological characteristics of the neonatal cerebral vessels associated with preterm birth in a sample of 37 infants. We found statistically significant decreased tortuosity in all proximal segments of the cerebral vasculature (anterior, middle and posterior cerebral arteries) in the preterm infants imaged at term equivalent age compared to the term born infants, with no differences in vessel diameter between the two groups. This distinct phenotype of decreased tortuosity was shown to persist until 18 months of age in longitudinal MRA studies in infants born preterm, suggesting that this is not a delay in maturation. Biparietal head diameter measurements were significantly smaller in the preterm at term infants and were inversely correlated with middle cerebral artery tortuosity measurements in both the term born and the preterm at term infants. To our knowledge, this is the first systematic MRA study on the effect of preterm delivery on neonatal cerebral vasculature. Our intention is to build on the findings of this study by combining the data with other measurements of brain growth and vascular haemodynamics to understand more about the interdependence of vessel and brain development and their relationship to prematurity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / anatomy & histology*
  • Cerebral Arteries / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology*
  • Head / anatomy & histology
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / physiology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Phenotype