Imaging of Premature Infants

Clin Perinatol. 2022 Sep;49(3):641-655. doi: 10.1016/j.clp.2022.06.001. Epub 2022 Aug 22.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15 million babies are born preterm each year. Preterm infants are those born at less than 37 weeks, while extremely and very preterm neonates include those born at 22 to less than 32 weeks gestational age. Infants that fail to make it to term are missing a key part in neurodevelopment, as weeks 24 to 40 are a critical period of brain development. Neonatal brain injury is a crucial predictor for mortality and morbidity in premature and low birth weight (<1500 g) infants. Although the complications associated with preterm birth continue to be the number one cause of death in children under 5, the survival rates are increasing (Volpe, 2019). Despite this, the incidence of comorbidities, such as learning disabilities and visual and hearing problems, is still high. The functional deficits seen in these infants can be contributed to the white matter abnormalities (WMA) that have been found in 50% to 80% of extremely and very preterm neonates. While numerous, the etiology of the neonatal brain injury is essential for determining the mortality and morbidities of the infant, as there is an increased risk for both intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) and periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), which can be attributed to their lack of cerebrovascular autoregulation and hypoxic events. Neuroimaging plays a key role in detecting and assessing these neurologic injuries that preterm infants are at risk for. It is essential to diagnose these events early on to assess neurologic damage, minimize disease progression, and provide supportive care. Brain MRI and cranial ultrasound (CUS) are both extensively used neuroimaging techniques to assess WMA, and it has become ever more important to determine the best imaging techniques and modalities with the increasing survival rates and high incidence of comorbidities among these infants.

Keywords: Germinal matrix hemorrhage; Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL); Posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus of prematurity (PHHP).

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries*
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases* / diagnostic imaging
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases* / epidemiology
  • Premature Birth*