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Eur Radiol. 2003 Jul;13(7):1571-6. Epub 2003 Feb 7.

Diffusion-weighted MR imaging in the early diagnosis of periventricular leukomalacia.

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Department of Neuroradiology, University "La Sapienza", Via di Grottarossa, 1035, Rome, Italy.


Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) has been shown to be highly sensitive in detecting acute cerebral infarction, but its use in detecting hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) in neonates is still controversial. Moreover, few reports concern pre-term infants with possible periventricular leukomalacia (PVL). We examined the ability of this technique to detect cerebral changes in the acute phase of PVL. Fifteen MR examinations were performed in 11 pre-term infants (mean age 3.4 days, range 2-6 days). Conventional DWI sequences, apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) maps, and US obtained in the acute phase were compared. All the neonates underwent US follow-up up to 4 months after delivery; those with suspected PVL also underwent MRI follow-up for up to 2 months. Qualitative and quantitative evaluations were performed to assess the presence of DW changes compatible with PVL. Diffusion-weighted MRI showed signal hyperintensity associated with decreased ADC values in 3 subjects (27%). In these patients conventional MRI sequences were interpreted as normal and US (performed at the same time) as doubtful in 2 and compatible with PVL in 1 subject. The MRI and US follow-up confirmed severe damage in all these patients. In 1 neonate hemorrhages involving the germinative matrix were identified. In 8 neonates MRI was considered normal. In these subjects US follow-up (up to 4 months) confirmed no signs of PVL. Diffusion-weighted imaging may have a higher correlation with later evidence of PVL than does conventional MR imaging and US when performed in the acute phase of the disease.

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