Background and Objectives
The neurologic deficits of neonatal post-hemorrhagic hydrocephalus (PHH) have been linked to periventricular white matter injury. To improve understanding of PHH-related injury, diffusion basis spectrum imaging (DBSI) was applied in neonates, modeling axonal and myelin integrity, fiber density, and extrafiber pathologies. Objectives included characterizing DBSI measures in periventricular tracts, associating measures with ventricular size, and examining MRI findings in the context of postmortem white matter histology from similar cases.
A prospective cohort of infants born very preterm underwent term equivalent MRI, including infants with PHH, high-grade intraventricular hemorrhage without hydrocephalus (IVH), and controls (very preterm [VPT]). DBSI metrics extracted from the corpus callosum, corticospinal tracts, and optic radiations included fiber axial diffusivity, fiber radial diffusivity, fiber fractional anisotropy, fiber fraction (fiber density), restricted fractions (cellular infiltration), and nonrestricted fractions (vasogenic edema). Measures were compared across groups and correlated with ventricular size. Corpus callosum postmortem immunohistochemistry in infants with and without PHH assessed intra- and extrafiber pathologies.
Ninety-five infants born very preterm were assessed (68 VPT, 15 IVH, 12 PHH). Infants with PHH had the most severe white matter abnormalities and there were no consistent differences in measures between IVH and VPT groups. Key tract-specific white matter injury patterns in PHH included reduced fiber fraction in the setting of axonal or myelin injury, increased cellular infiltration, vasogenic edema, and inflammation. Specifically, measures of axonal injury were highest in the corpus callosum; both axonal and myelin injury were observed in the corticospinal tracts; and axonal and myelin integrity were preserved in the setting of increased extrafiber cellular infiltration and edema in the optic radiations. Increasing ventricular size correlated with worse DBSI metrics across groups. On histology, infants with PHH had high cellularity, variable cytoplasmic vacuolation, and low synaptophysin marker intensity.
PHH was associated with diffuse white matter injury, including tract-specific patterns of axonal and myelin injury, fiber loss, cellular infiltration, and inflammation. Larger ventricular size was associated with greater disruption. Postmortem immunohistochemistry confirmed MRI findings. These results demonstrate DBSI provides an innovative approach extending beyond conventional diffusion MRI for investigating neuropathologic effects of PHH on neonatal brain development.