OBJECT Craniosynostosis is a condition in which one or more of the calvarial sutures fuses prematurely. In addition to the cosmetic ramifications attributable to premature suture fusion, aberrations in neurophysiological parameters are seen, which may result in more significant damage. This work examines the microstructural integrity of white matter, using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) in a homogeneous strain of rabbits with simple, familial coronal suture synostosis before and after surgical correction. METHODS After diagnosis, rabbits were assigned to different groups: wild-type (WT), rabbits with early-onset complete fusion of the coronal suture (BC), and rabbits that had undergone surgical correction with suturectomy (BC-SU) at 10 days of age. Fixed rabbit heads were imaged at 12, 25, or 42 days of life using a 4.7-T, 40-cm bore Avance scanner with a 7.2-cm radiofrequency coil. For DTI, a 3D spin echo sequence was used with a diffusion gradient (b = 2000 sec/mm(2)) applied in 6 directions. RESULTS As age increased from 12 to 42 days, the DTI differences between WT and BC groups became more pronounced (p < 0.05, 1-way ANOVA), especially in the corpus callosum, cingulum, and fimbriae. Suturectomy resulted in rabbits with no significant differences compared with WT animals, as assessed by DTI of white matter tracts. Also, it was possible to predict to which group an animal belonged (WT, BC, and BC-SU) with high accuracy based on imaging data alone using a linear support vector machine classifier. The ability to predict to which group the animal belonged improved as the age of the animal increased (71% accurate at 12 days and 100% accurate at 42 days). CONCLUSIONS Craniosynostosis results in characteristic changes of major white matter tracts, with differences becoming more apparent as the age of the rabbits increases. Early suturectomy (at 10 days of life) appears to mitigate these differences.
Keywords: AD = axial diffusivity; ADC = apparent diffusion coefficient; DTI = diffusion tensor imaging; FA = fractional anisotropy; ICP = intracranial pressure; RD = radial diffusivity; ROI = region of interest; SVM = support vector machine; craniosynostosis; diffusion tensor imaging; fractional anisotropy; rabbit; white matter.