Magnetic resonance imaging of white matter diseases of prematurity

Neuroradiology. 2010 Jun;52(6):505-21. doi: 10.1007/s00234-010-0700-y. Epub 2010 Apr 27.


Periventricular leucomalacia (PVL) and parenchymal venous infarction complicating germinal matrix/intraventricular haemorrhage have long been recognised as the two significant white matter diseases responsible for the majority of cases of cerebral palsy in survivors of preterm birth. However, more recent studies using magnetic resonance imaging to assess the preterm brain have documented two new appearances, adding to the spectrum of white matter disease of prematurity: punctate white matter lesions, and diffuse excessive high signal intensity (DEHSI). These appear to be more common than PVL but less significant in terms of their impact on individual neurodevelopment. They may, however, be associated with later cognitive and behavioural disorders known to be common following preterm birth. It remains unclear whether PVL, punctate lesions, and DEHSI represent a continuum of disorders occurring as a result of a similar injurious process to the developing white matter. This review discusses the role of MR imaging in investigating these three disorders in terms of aetiology, pathology, and outcome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Demyelinating Diseases / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers, Myelinated / pathology*