Background: This study examined the relation of neonatal cranial ultrasound abnormalities to psychiatric disorder at age 6 years in a regional birth cohort of low-birth-weight children.
Methods: Neonatal cranial ultrasound abnormalities were classified as (1) isolated germinal matrix and/or intraventricular hemorrhage (suggestive of injury to glial precursors) or (2) parenchymal lesions and/or ventricular enlargement (suggestive of white matter injury) with or without germinal matrix-intraventricular hemorrhage. Psychiatric disorders by DSM-III-R at age 6 years were assessed by means of a structured parent interview. Children with severe mental retardation were excluded. Analyses were conducted first in the entire sample and then in children with normal intelligence.
Results: Twenty-two percent of the cohort had at least 1 psychiatric disorder, the most common being attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (15.6%). In the entire sample, parenchymal lesions and/or ventricular enlargement increased risk relative to no abnormality, independently of other biological and social predictors, for any disorder (odds ratio [OR], 4.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.8-10.3; P < .001), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (OR, 3.4; CI, 1.3-8.7; P = .02), and tic disorders (OR, 8.7; CI, 1.3-57.7; P = .02). In children of normal intelligence, parenchymal lesions/ventricular enlargement independently increased risk for any disorder (OR, 4.8; CI, 1.6-12.0; P < .01), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (OR, 4.5; CI, 1.3-16.0; P = .02), and separation anxiety (OR, 5.3; CI, 1.1-24.8; P = .03). These effects were not ameliorated by female sex or social advantage. Isolated germinal matrix/intraventricular hemorrhage was not related to psychiatric disorder at age 6 years.
Conclusion: Neonatal cranial ultrasound abnormalities suggestive of white matter injury significantly increased risk for some psychiatric disorders at age 6 years in low-birth-weight children.