Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Preterm Infant Brain
A. David Edwards.
Despite improvements in neonatal care, survivors of preterm birth are still at a significantly increased risk of
developing life-long neurological difficulties including cerebral palsy and cognitive difficulties. Cranial ultrasound is routinely
used in neonatal practice, but has a low sensitivity for identifying later neurodevelopmental difficulties. Magnetic
Resonance Imaging (MRI) can be used to identify intracranial abnormalities with greater diagnostic accuracy in preterm
infants, and theoretically might improve the planning and targeting of long-term neurodevelopmental care; reducing parental
stress and unplanned healthcare utilisation; and ultimately may improve healthcare cost effectiveness. Furthermore,
MR imaging offers the advantage of allowing the quantitative assessment of the integrity, growth and function of intracranial
structures, thereby providing the means to develop sensitive biomarkers which may be predictive of later neurological
impairment. However further work is needed to define the accuracy and value of diagnosis by MR and the techniques’s
precise role in care pathways for preterm infants.
Keywords: Preterm infant, MRI, brain, neurodevelopmental outcome, biomarker.
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