Background: Neonates with congenital heart disease (CHD) are at high risk of punctate white matter injury (WMI) and impaired brain development. We hypothesized that WMI in CHD neonates occurs in a characteristic distribution that shares topology with preterm WMI and that lower birth gestational age (GA) is associated with larger WMI volume.
Objective: (1) To quantitatively assess the volume and location of WMI in CHD neonates across three centres. (2) To compare the volume and spatial distribution of WMI between term CHD neonates and preterm neonates using lesion mapping.
Methods: In 216 term born CHD neonates from three prospective cohorts (mean birth GA: 39 weeks), WMI was identified in 86 neonates (UBC: 29; UCSF: 43; UCZ: 14) on pre- and/or post-operative T1 weighted MRI. WMI was manually segmented and volumes were calculated. A standard brain template was generated. Probabilistic WMI maps (total, pre- and post-operative) were developed in this common space. Using these maps, WMI in the term CHD neonates was compared with that in preterm neonates: 58 at early-in-life (mean postmenstrual age at scan 32.2 weeks); 41 at term-equivalent age (mean postmenstrual age at scan 40.1 weeks).
Results: The total WMI volumes of CHD neonates across centres did not differ (p = 0.068): UBC (median = 84.6 mm3, IQR = 26-174.7 mm3); UCSF (median = 104 mm3, IQR = 44-243 mm3); UCZ (median = 121 mm3, IQR = 68-200.8 mm3). The spatial distribution of WMI in CHD neonates showed strong concordance across centres with predilection for anterior and posterior rather than central lesions. Predominance of anterior lesions was apparent on the post-operative WMI map relative to the pre-operative map. Lower GA at birth predicted an increasing volume of WMI across the full cohort (41.1 mm3 increase of WMI per week decrease in gestational age; 95% CI 11.5-70.8; p = 0.007), when accounting for centre and heart lesion. While WMI in term CHD and preterm neonates occurs most commonly in the intermediate zone/outer subventricular zone there is a paucity of central lesions in the CHD neonates relative to preterms.
Conclusions: WMI in term neonates with CHD occurs in a characteristic topology. The spatial distribution of WMI in term neonates with CHD reflects the expected maturation of pre-oligodendrocytes such that the central regions are less vulnerable than in the preterm neonates.
Keywords: Congenital heart disease (CHD); Preterm neonates; Probabilistic WMI map; Term CHD neonates; Topology; White matter injury (WMI).
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