Effect of antenatal growth on brain white matter maturation in preterm infants at term using tract-based spatial statistics
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White matter maturation of infants can be studied using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). DTI of the white matter of the infant brain provides the best available clinical measures of brain tissue organisation and integrity.
The purpose of this study was to compare white matter maturation between preterm infants born small for gestational age (SGA) and preterms with weight appropriate for gestational age (AGA) at birth.
Materials and methods
A total of 36 preterm infants were enrolled in the study (SGA, n = 9). A rater-independent method called tract-based spatial statistics (TBSS) was used to assess white matter maturation.
When measured by TBSS, the AGA infants showed higher fractional anisotrophy values in several white matter tracts than the SGA infants. Areas with significant differences included anterior thalamic radiation, corticospinal tract, forceps major and minor, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, inferior longitudinal fasciculus, superior longitudinal fasciculus, uncinate fasciculus, and superior longitudinal fasciculus (temporal part). No significant difference was found for mean diffusivity.
As an objective and user-independent method, TBSS confirmed that preterm infants with impaired antenatal growth have impaired white matter maturation compared to preterm infants with normal antenatal growth. The differences were mainly detected in radiations that are myelinated first.