Grey and White Matter Volume Changes after Preterm Birth: A Meta-Analytic Approach

J Pers Med. 2021 Aug 30;11(9):868. doi: 10.3390/jpm11090868.


Cross-sectional studies have reported lower brain grey matter volumes (GMV) and white matter volumes (WMV) in preterm (PT) born individuals. While large MRI studies in the normative population have led to a better understanding of brain growth trajectories across the lifespan, such results remain elusive for PT born individuals since large, aggregated datasets of PT born individuals do not exist. To close this gap, we investigated GMV and WMV in PT born individuals as reported in the literature and contrasted it against individual volumetric data and trajectories from the general population. Systematic database search of PubMed and Web of Science in March 2021, and extraction of outcome measures were conducted by two independent reviewers. Individual data on full-term (FT) controls was extracted from freely available databases. Mean GMV, WMV, total intracranial volume (TIV), and mean age at scan were the main outcome measures. Of 532 identified records, nine studies were included with 538 PT born subjects between 1.1 and 28.5 years of age. Reference data was generated from 880 FT controls between 1 and 30 years of age. GMV was consistently lower in PT born individuals from infancy to early adulthood with no evidence for catch-up growth. While GMV changes followed a similar trajectory as FT controls, WMV was particularly low in adolescence after PT birth. Results demonstrate altered brain volumes after PT birth across the first half of lifespan. Future studies should address this issue in large aggregated datasets of PT born individuals.

Keywords: brain development; grey matter volume; preterm birth; structural magnetic resonance imaging; white matter volume.