The deep gray nuclei are paired interconnected gray nuclei comprising the basal ganglia and thalami. Injury to the deep gray nuclei secondary to hypoxic-ischemic injury is associated with poor short- and long-term clinical outcomes. The signal changes following hypoxic-ischemic injury are dynamic and evolve over a period of time from injury to resolution. Radiologically relevant events following hypoxic-ischemic injury include the onset of anaerobic metabolism immediately following hypoxic-ischemic injury, increase in cytotoxic edema followed by its resolution, and the onset and progression of neuronal necrosis and gliosis. Appearance of lactate peak on proton spectroscopy is the initial radiologic evidence of hypoxic-ischemic injury. Diffusion-weighted imaging has the highest prognostic value and pseudo-normalizes following 1 week of hypoxic-ischemic injury. Recommended timing for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is between 4 and 7 days. MR imaging performed between 1 and 6 months underestimates the extent of injury because radiologic changes are subtle. This review provides a detailed timeline of radiologic abnormalities in the deep gray nuclei following hypoxic-ischemic injury.
Keywords: basal ganglia; deep gray nuclei; hypoxic-ischemic injury; temporal evolution; thalamus.