The relationship between clinical imaging and neurobehavioral assessment in posthemorrhagic ventricular dilation of prematurity

Rebecca A. Dorner, Bruno P. Soares, Shenandoah Robinson, Marilee C. Allen, Jamie Perin, Vera Joanna Burton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Neonatal intraventricular hemorrhage (IVH) and subsequent posthemorrhagic ventricular dilation and hydrocephalus of prematurity are associated with brain injury and neurodevelopmental impairment in the preterm population. Neuroimaging assesses cerebral injury and guides neurosurgical intervention; however, the relationship of head ultrasound (HUS) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) parameters to neonatal exams in this group has not been well described. The NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale (NNNS) is a reproducible, highly reliable battery with motor and cognitive domain scores. Objective: To evaluate the relationship between neonatal neurobehavioral findings on the NNNS and measures of ventricular dilation and associated brain injury on HUS and MRI. Materials and Methods: Neonates with IVH and ventricular dilatation with and without posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus were enrolled. NNNS exams were performed at approximately term age equivalent. HUS indices were measured on the last HUS before initial neurosurgical procedure or that with worst ventriculomegaly if no intervention. The posterior fossa was assessed with MRI at term. Descriptive statistics including medians, interquartile ranges, means, and percentages were performed. Correlations were estimated using Pearson's method. Results: 28 patients had NNNS and HUS, and 18 patients also had an MRI. Ventricle size measures for the cohort were significantly above normal. Motor and cognitive subscores on the NNNS exam varied from established baseline scores for postmenstrual age. Children who required neurosurgical intervention had higher ventricle/brain ratios and worse NNNS habituation scores. Ventricle sizes were modestly correlated with motor abnormalities (0.24-0.59); larger anterior horn width correlated with nonoptimal reflexes, hypertonicity and hypotonicity. Ventricle sizes were modestly correlated with cognitive scores (−0.44 to 0.27); larger ventricular index correlated with worse attention. Periventricular hemorrhagic infarction correlated with worse habituation. Conclusion: For this cohort of preterm infants with IVH, surgical intervention for posthemorrhagic hydrocephalus correlated with both larger degrees of ventriculomegaly and worse NNNS exams. Findings on both HUS and MRI correlated with motor and cognitive abnormalities on neonatal neurobehavioral exam, suggesting that larger neonatal ventricle sizes and white matter injury have detectable correlates on exam. The NNNS exam provides important additional information when assessing posthemorrhagic ventricular dilation and hydrocephalus of prematurity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number64
JournalFrontiers in Physiology
Issue numberFEB
StatePublished - 2019


  • Development
  • Hydrocephalus
  • Intraventricular hemorrhage
  • Neuroimaging
  • Prematurity
  • Ventriculomegaly

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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