Diffusion-weighted MRI in severe neonatal hypoxic ischaemia: The white cerebrum

R. J. Vermeulen*, W. P.F. Fetter, L. Hendrikx, P. E.M. Van Schie, M. S. Van der Knaap, F. Barkhof

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Presently, prognosis of infants with perinatal hypoxia-ischaemia is estimated using the Sarnat scale, which combines clinical evaluation and electroencephalography, in combination with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and or evoked potentials. While the value of conventional MRI is limited during the first week of life, diffusion-weighted MRI demonstrates effects of acute cerebral ischaemia within hours of onset. However, the exact value of diffusion MRI in the prognosis of infants with hypoxia-ischaemia has to be established in larger follow-up studies. In this report we describe 5 term (post-conceptional age 40 1/7 to 41 2/7 week) neonates with severe hypoxia-ischaemia and a characteristic pattern of diffusion changes. T1-weighted images showed a hyperintense cortical signal in only one case and extensive hyperintensity in the basal nuclei in all 5 cases. T2-weighted images showed nearly complete loss of cortical delineation in three cases. Increased signal on diffusion-weighted images was seen throughout all cortical and subcortical areas while the cerebellum remained normal. This pattern, which we refer to as the "white cerebrum", is most readily apparent on coronal images. The apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) was calculated and compared to that of four control infants. In the cortex ADC values were lowered (0.70 ± 0.17 μm2/msec [mean ± standard deviation (SD)]; controls [n = 4]: 1.18 ± 0.02 μm2/msec) as compared to values of ADC in the cerebellum (1.31 ± 0.06μm2/msec [mean ± SD]; controls [n = 4]: 1.25 ± 0.06 μm2/msec). All infants died in the perinatal period. In summary, the "white cerebrum" on diffusion-weighted MRI indicates severe neonatal hypoxia-ischaemia and is the counterpart of the white cerebellum on CT.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-76
Number of pages5
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2003

Cite this