Background: Altered brain volumes and associations between volumes and developmental outcomes have been reported in prematurely born children.
Objectives: To assess which regional brain volumes are different in very low birth weight (VLBW) children without neurodevelopmental impairments ([NDI] cerebral palsy, hearing loss, blindness and significantly delayed cognitive performance) compared with VLBW children with NDI, and to evaluate the association between regional brain volumes at term-equivalent age and cognitive development and neurological performance at a corrected age of 2 years.
Materials and methods: The study group consisted of a regional cohort of 164 VLBW children, divided into one group of children without NDI (n = 148) and one group of children with NDI (n = 16). Brain (MRI) was performed at term-equivalent age, from which brain volumes were manually analysed. Cognitive development was assessed with the Bayley Scales of Infant Development II (BSID-II), and neurological performance with the Hammersmith Infant Neurological Examination at the corrected age of 2 years.
Results: The volumes of total brain tissue, cerebrum, frontal lobes, basal ganglia and thalami, and cerebellum were significantly smaller, and the volume of the ventricles significantly larger, in the children with NDI than in those without NDI. Even in children without NDI, a smaller cerebellar volume was significantly correlated with poor neurological performance at 2 years of corrected age.
Conclusion: Volumetric analysis at brain MRI can provide an additional parameter for early prediction of outcome in VLBW children.