Introduction: Our aims were to (1) assess the corticospinal tracts (CSTs) in infants with focal injury and healthy term controls using probabilistic tractography and (2) to correlate the conventional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and tractography findings in infants with focal injury with their later motor function.
Methods: We studied 20 infants with focal lesions and 23 controls using MRI and diffusion tensor imaging. Tract volume, fractional anisotropy (FA), apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) values, axial diffusivity and radial diffusivity (RD) of the CSTs were determined. Asymmetry indices (AIs) were calculated by comparing ipsilateral to contralateral CSTs. Motor outcome was assessed using a standardized neurological examination.
Results: Conventional MRI was able to predict normal motor development (n = 9) or hemiplegia (n = 6). In children who developed a mild motor asymmetry (n = 5), conventional MRI predicted a hemiplegia in two and normal motor development in three infants. The AIs for tract volume, FA, ADC and RD showed a significant difference between controls and infants who developed a hemiplegia, and RD also showed a significant difference in AI between controls and infants who developed a mild asymmetry.
Conclusion: Conventional MRI was able to predict subsequent normal motor development or hemiplegia following focal injury in newborn infants. Measures of RD obtained from diffusion tractography may offer additional information for predicting a subsequent asymmetry in motor function.