Background: Diffuse excessive high signal intensity (DEHSI) may represent damage to the white matter in preterm infants, but may be best studied alongside quantitative markers. Limited published data exists on its neuro-developmental implications.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to assess whether preterm children with DEHSI at term-corrected age have abnormal neuro-developmental outcome.
Materials and methods: This was a prospective observational study of 67 preterm infants with MRI of the brain around term-equivalent age, including diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI). Images were reported as being normal, overtly abnormal or to show DEHSI. A single observer placed six regions of interest in the periventricular white matter and calculated the apparent diffusion coefficients (ADC). DEHSI was defined as (1) high signal on T2-weighted images alone, (2) high signal with raised ADC values or (3) raised ADC values independent of visual appearances. The neuro-development was assessed around 18 months' corrected age using the Bayley Scales of Infant and Toddler Development (3rd Edition). Standard t tests compared outcome scores between imaging groups.
Results: No statistically significant difference in neuro-developmental outcome scores was seen between participants with normal MRI and DEHSI, regardless of which definition was used.
Conclusion: Preterm children with DEHSI have similar neuro-developmental outcome to those with normal brain MRI, even if the definition includes objective markers alongside visual appearances.