, Volume 55, Issue 2 Supplement, pp 65-95
Date: 14 Aug 2013

Diffusion magnetic resonance imaging in preterm brain injury

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access



White matter injury and abnormal maturation are thought to be major contributors to the neurodevelopmental disabilities observed in children and adolescents who were born preterm. Early detection of abnormal white matter maturation is important in the design of preventive, protective, and rehabilitative strategies for the management of the preterm infant. Diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (d-MRI) has become a valuable tool in assessing white matter maturation and injury in survivors of preterm birth. In this review, we aim to (1) describe the basic concepts of d-MRI; (2) evaluate the methods that are currently used to analyse d-MRI; (3) discuss neuroimaging correlates of preterm brain injury observed at term corrected age; during infancy, adolescence and in early adulthood; and (4) explore the relationship between d-MRI measures and subsequent neurodevelopmental performance.


References for this review were identified through searches of PubMed and Google Scholar before March 2013.


The impact of premature birth on cerebral white matter can be observed from term-equivalent age through to adulthood. Disruptions to white matter development, identified by d-MRI, are related to diminished performance in functional domains including motor performance, cognition and behaviour in early childhood and in later life.


d-MRI is an effective tool for investigating preterm white matter injury. With advances in image acquisition and analysis approaches, d-MRI has the potential to be a biomarker of subsequent outcome and to evaluate efficacy of clinical interventions in this population.

This article is part of the special supplement “The Premature Brain”—Guest Editor: Charles Raybaud