Impact of Nutritional Status on Total Brain Tissue Volumes in Preterm Infants

Children (Basel). 2024 Jan 18;11(1):121. doi: 10.3390/children11010121.


Preterm infants bypass the crucial in utero period of brain development and are at increased risk of malnutrition. We aimed to determine if their nutritional status is associated with brain tissue volumes at term equivalent age (TEA), applying recently published malnutrition guidelines for preterm infants. We performed a single center retrospective chart review of 198 infants < 30 weeks' gestation between 2018 and 2021. We primarily analyzed the relationship between the manually obtained neonatal MR-based brain tissue volumes with the maximum weight and length z-score. Significant positive linear associations between brain tissue volumes at TEA and weight and length z-scores were found (p < 0.05). Recommended nutrient intake for preterm infants is not routinely achieved despite efforts to optimize nutrition. Neonatal MR-based brain tissue volumes of preterm infants could serve as objective, quantitative and reproducible surrogate parameters of early brain development. Nutrition is a modifiable factor affecting neurodevelopment and these results could perhaps be used as reference data for future timely nutritional interventions to promote optimal brain volume.

Keywords: brain tissue volume; length z-score; malnutrition; neonatal brain; neonatal nutrition; preterm; weight z-score.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.