By MireilleGuillot and Steven P.Miller
White matter injury (WMI) represents a frequent form of parenchymal brain injury in preterm neonates. Several dimensions of WMI are recognized, with distinct neuropathologic features involving a combination of destructive and maturational anomalies. Hypoxia-ischemia is the main mechanism leading to WMI and adverse white matter development, which result from injury to the oligodendrocyte precursor cells. Inflammation might act as a potentiator for WMI. A combination of hypoxia-ischemia and inflammation is frequent in several neonatal comorbidities such as postnatal infections, NEC and bronchopulmonary dysplasia, all known contributors to WMI.
White matter injury is an important predictor of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes. When WMI is detected on neonatal brain imaging, a detailed characterization of the injury (pattern of injury, severity and location) may enhance the ability to predict outcomes. This clinically-oriented review will provide an overview of the pathophysiology and imaging diagnosis of the multiple dimensions of WMI, will explore the association between postnatal complications and WMI, and will provide guidance on the signification of white matter anomalies for motor and cognitive development.