Introduction: Objective biomarkers are needed to assess neuroprotective therapies after perinatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE). We tested the hypothesis that, in infants who underwent therapeutic hypothermia after perinatal HIE, neurodevelopmental performance was predicted by fractional anisotropy (FA) values in the white matter (WM) on early diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) as assessed by means of tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS).
Methods: We studied 43 term infants with HIE. Developmental assessments were carried out at a median (range) age of 24 (12-28) mo.
Results: As compared with infants with favorable outcomes, those with unfavorable outcomes had significantly lower FA values (P < 0.05) in the centrum semiovale, corpus callosum (CC), anterior and posterior limbs of the internal capsule, external capsules, fornix, cingulum, cerebral peduncles, optic radiations, and inferior longitudinal fasciculus. In a second analysis in 32 assessable infants, the Griffiths Mental Development Scales (Revised) (GMDS-R) showed a significant linear correlation (P < 0.05) between FA values and developmental quotient (DQ) and all its component subscale scores.
Discussion: DTI analyzed by TBSS provides a qualified biomarker that can be used to assess the efficacy of additional neuroprotective therapies after HIE.