Premature infants have a disproportionately increased risk for brain injury based on several mechanisms including intraventricular hemorrhage, ischemia and the vulnerability of developing neuronal progenitor cells. Injury to the developing brain often results in neurologic abnormalities that can be correlated with a structural lesion; however more subtle injury may result in disruption of critical neural pathways. There also appears to be an important relationship between brain injury in the cortex and the growth and developing cerebellum. Although the survival rate for premature has improved over the past decade, researchers remain concerned about the risk for adverse neurocognitive functioning in these early childhood, including an increased risk for cerebral palsy, cognitive impairment, speech and language delay and sensory dysfunction.
Learning outcomes: After this activity, the learner will be able to (1) identify potential causes of brain injury in the premature infant, (2) understand that the maturational process for the human brain continues throughout gestation, (3) identify risk factors for adverse neurocognitive functioning in premature infants, and (4) identify abnormalities on central nervous system neuroimaging studies that correlate with an increased risk for adverse neurodevelopmental outcome in premature infants.