The use of MR imaging and spectroscopy of the brain in children investigated for developmental delay: what is the most appropriate imaging strategy?

Eur Radiol. 2011 Sep;21(9):1820-30. doi: 10.1007/s00330-011-2144-0. Epub 2011 May 10.


Objectives: Developmental delay is a common problem in paediatric practice and many children with developmental delay are referred for MR imaging. Our study was performed as part of a continuing audit process to optimise our MR protocol and case selection.

Materials and methods: We performed MR imaging and spectroscopy protocol on 157 children with developmental delay. We analysed the effect of these interventions by looking at the overall detection rate of relevant pathology and in particular subgroups of the children.

Results: 71% of the children had normal MR imaging, 10% had non-specific findings and 19% had specific abnormalities on MR imaging. The overall risk of having a specific structural abnormality with isolated developmental was 7.5% but if other neurological symptoms/signs were present the risk was 28%. Two children had abnormal spectroscopic findings, one with tuberous sclerosis and the other with absent brain creatine.

Conclusion: Case selection for MR imaging is important in children with developmental delay. The best strategies for selecting children for MR are either; not performing MR with developmental delay in one domain only or performing MR with developmental delay in three or four domains or if there are other neurological features.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy / methods*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity