Altered Cerebral Perfusion in Infants Born Preterm Compared with Infants Born Full Term

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Abstract

Objectives

To compare regional cerebral cortical blood flow (CBF) in infants born very preterm at term-equivalent age (TEA) and healthy newborns born full term and to examine the impact of clinical risk factors on CBF in the cohort born preterm.

Study design

This prospective, cross-sectional study included infants born very preterm (gestational age at birth <32 weeks; birth weight <1500 g) and healthy infants born full term. Using noninvasive 3T arterial spin labeling magnetic resonance imaging, we quantified regional CBF in the cerebral cortex: sensorimotor/auditory/visual cortex, superior medial/dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate cortex (ACC)/posterior cingulate cortex, insula, and lateral posterior parietal cortex, as well as in the brainstem, and deep gray matter. Analyses were performed controlling for sex, gestational age, and age at magnetic resonance imaging.

Results

We studied 202 infants: 98 born preterm and 104 born full term at TEA. Infants born preterm demonstrated greater global CBF (β = 9.03; P < .0001) and greater absolute regional CBF in all brain regions except the insula. Relative CBF in the insula, ACC and auditory cortex were decreased significantly in infants born preterm compared with their peers born at full term (P < .0001; P = .026; P = .036, respectively). In addition, the presence of parenchymal brain injury correlated with lower global and regional CBF (insula, ACC, sensorimotor, auditory, and visual cortices) whereas the need for cardiac vasopressor support correlated with lower regional CBF in the insula and visual cortex.

Conclusions

Altered regional cortical CBF in infants born very preterm at TEA may reflect early brain dysmaturation despite the absence of cerebral cortical injury. Furthermore, specific cerebral cortical areas may be vulnerable to early hemodynamic instability and parenchymal brain injury.

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