Purpose: To compare the size of multiple brain structures, maturation in terms of both brain myelination and gyral development, and evidence of brain injury between moderate and late preterm (MLPT) and term-born infants at term-equivalent age.
Materials and methods: The study was approved by the human research ethics committees of the participating hospitals, and informed parental consent was obtained for all infants. One hundred ninety-nine MLPT and 50 term-born infants underwent 3-T magnetic resonance (MR) imaging brain examinations at 38-44 weeks of corrected gestational age. T1- and T2-weighted MR images were compared between groups for size of multiple cerebral structures, degree of myelination in the posterior limb of the internal capsule, gyral maturation, signal intensity abnormalities, and presence of cysts by a single assessor who was blinded to the gestational group and perinatal course of the infants. Group differences were compared by using linear regression for continuous variables and logistic regression for categorical variables, and interrater and intrarater reliability was assessed by using intraclass correlation coefficients.
Results: Compared with those in the term-born control group, measurements of brain biparietal diameter, corpus callosum, basal ganglia and thalami, and cerebellum were smaller in infants in the MLPT group (all P ≤ .01), while extracerebral space was larger (P < .0001). Myelination of the posterior limb of the internal capsule was less developed, and gyral maturation was delayed in the MLPT group (both P < .001). Signal intensity abnormalities and cysts were uncommon in both groups, with 13 (6.5%) MLPT infants and one (2%) term infant having abnormalities. Inter- and intrarater reliability was good for most measures, with intraclass correlation coefficients generally greater than 0.68.
Conclusion: MLPT birth is associated with smaller brain size, less-developed myelination of the posterior limb of the internal capsule, and more immature gyral folding than those associated with full-term birth. These brain changes may form the basis of some of the long-term neurodevelopmental deficits observed in MLPT children. Online supplemental material is available for this article.
© RSNA, 2014.