Background: The objective of this study was to evaluate changes in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain in children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) during the first 5 years after the cessation of therapy and to correlate MRI abnormalities with neuropsychologic outcome.
Methods: Thirty-two children with ALL were studied at the end of treatment and 5 years later by brain MRI and the results were compared with the neuropsychologic findings. Fifteen patients had received chemotherapy alone and 17 had received chemotherapy plus cranial radiation.
Results: MRI of the brain was abnormal in 6 of 30 patients at the end of treatment and in 8 of 32 patients 5 years later. White matter changes (WMC) were found in 3 patients at the end of treatment and in 4 patients 5 years later. Two patients had developed new mild changes, whereas in one case WMC had normalized during the follow-up. Two patients had old hemorrhages or calcifications at each examination, with some improvement after follow-up, although one case revealed a new calcification or hemorrhage. Signs of cortical atrophy were observed in five patients at both evaluations. The patients with abnormal MRI findings did not differ significantly in their performance in the neuropsychologic tests from the patients with normal MRI findings, but the two patients with persistent WMC had a depression of verbal functions.
Conclusions: Abnormalities in brain MRI were infrequent at the end of treatment for childhood ALL and 5 years later. They did not appear to correlate significantly with neuropsychologic outcome. Brain MRI is not very informative as a routine follow-up method during the first 5 years after treatment.