Purpose: To establish quantitative standards for the directionally averaged water apparent diffusion coefficient (D) and quantitative diffusion anisotropy (A sigma) of normal brains in newborns by using diffusion tensor magnetic resonance (MR) imaging.
Materials and methods: Diffusion tensor MR imaging was performed during the first 36 hours of life in 22 newborns (gestational age range, 31-41 weeks). Values of D and A sigma were measured in regions of interest chosen in the cortical gray matter, centrum semiovale, caudate nuclei, lentiform nuclei, thalami, internal capsules, and cerebellar hemispheres.
Results: The D values in the gray and white matter in newborns are considerably higher than those in adults. There is a striking correlation between gestational age and D, with D decreasing as gestational age increases. The A sigma values in the white matter in newborns are lower than those in adults. Values of A sigma show statistically significant correlations with gestational age only in the white matter of the centrum semiovale, in which A sigma values increase sharply near term.
Conclusion: The D values primarily reflect overall brain water content. The A sigma values are more sensitive to tissue microstructure (e.g., white matter packing and myelination). The D and A sigma images reveal information and not apparent on T1- and T2-weighted images.