Recent studies, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess white matter injury in preterm brains, increasingly recognize punctate white matter lesions (PWML) as the primary lesion type. There are some papers showing the relationship between the size and number of PWML and the prognosis of infants. However, the histopathological features are still unknown. In this study, we experimentally induced periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) in a sheep fetus model, aiming to find whether MRI can visualize necrotic foci (small incipient lesions of PVL) as PWML. Three antenatal insults were employed to induce PVL in preterm fetuses at gestational day 101–117: (i) hypoxia under intrauterine inflammation, (ii) restriction of artificial placental blood flow, and (iii) restriction of artificial placental blood flow after exposure to intrauterine inflammation. MRI was performed 3–5 days after the insults, and standard histological studies of the PVL validated its findings. Of the 89 necrotic foci detected in histological samples from nine fetuses with PVL, 78 were visualized as PWML. Four of the lesions detected as abnormal findings on MRI could not be histologically detected as corresponding abnormal findings. The diagnostic sensitivity and positive predictive values of histologic focal necrosis visualized as PWML were 0.92 and 0.95, respectively. The four lesions were excluded from these analyses. These data suggest that MRI can visualize PVL necrotic foci as PWML 3–5 days after the injury induction. PWML can spontaneously become obscure with time after birth, so their accurate diagnosis in the acute phase can prevent overlooking mild PVL.
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