Brain tissue volumes in preterm infants: prematurity, perinatal risk factors and neurodevelopmental outcome: a systematic review

J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med. 2012 Apr;25 Suppl 1:89-100. doi: 10.3109/14767058.2012.664343.


Objective: To evaluate the clinical value of neonatal brain tissue segmentation in preterm infants according to the literature.

Methods: A structured literature search was undertaken in MEDLINE/Pubmed. This included all publications on volumetric brain tissue assessment in preterm infants at term-equivalent age (TEA) compared to brain tissue volumes of term-born infants, related to perinatal risk factors or related to neurodevelopmental outcome.

Results: Sixteen prospective cohort studies, described in 30 articles, fulfilled the criteria. Preterm infants displayed total and regional brain tissue alterations compared to healthy, term-born controls. These alterations seemed more prominent with decreasing gestational age. White matter injury, intraventricular haemorrhage, postnatal corticosteroid therapy, intra-uterine growth retardation and chronic lung disease were frequently associated with volume changes. Associations between volume alterations at TEA and neurodevelopmental outcome in early childhood were shown in a few studies.

Conclusions: Preterm birth is associated with brain tissue volume alterations that become more pronounced in the presence of perinatal risk factors and white matter injury. Moreover, associations between volumetric alterations as early as TEA and long-term neurodevelopmental impairments are scarce.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / growth & development
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Child Development*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Organ Size
  • Premature Birth / pathology*
  • Risk Factors