Rate of head ultrasound abnormalities at one month in very premature and extremely premature infants with normal initial screening ultrasound

Pediatr Radiol. 2022 May;52(6):1150-1157. doi: 10.1007/s00247-022-05285-y. Epub 2022 Jan 31.


Background: Premature infants are at risk for multiple types of intracranial injury with potentially significant long-term neurological impact. The number of screening head ultrasounds needed to detect such injuries remains controversial.

Objective: To determine the rate of abnormal findings on routine follow-up head ultrasound (US) performed in infants born at ≤ 32 weeks' gestational age (GA) after initial normal screening US.

Materials and methods: A retrospective study was performed on infants born at ≤ 32 weeks' GA with a head US at 3-5 weeks following a normal US at 3-10 days at a tertiary care pediatric hospital from 2014 to 2020. Exclusion criteria included significant congenital anomalies, such as congenital cardiac defects necessitating surgery, congenital diaphragmatic hernia or spinal dysraphism, and clinical indications for US other than routine screening, such as sepsis, other risk factors for intracranial injury besides prematurity, or clinical neurological abnormalities. Ultrasounds were classified as normal or abnormal based on original radiology reports. Images from initial examinations with abnormal follow-up were reviewed.

Results: Thirty-three (14.2%) of 233 infants had 34 total abnormal findings on follow-up head US after normal initial US. Twenty-seven infants had grade 1 germinal matrix hemorrhage, and four had grade 2 intraventricular hemorrhage. Two had periventricular echogenicity and one had a focus of cerebellar echogenicity that resolved and was determined to be artifactual.

Conclusion: When initial screening head ultrasounds in premature infants are normal, follow-up screening ultrasounds are typically also normal. Abnormal findings are usually limited to grade 1 germinal matrix hemorrhage.

Keywords: Brain; Head; Infant; Intracranial hemorrhage; Premature; Ultrasound.

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Hemorrhage
  • Child
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Extremely Premature*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ultrasonography