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Incidental findings on routine brain MRI scans in preterm infants
  1. Mariya Malova1,
  2. Andrea Rossi2,
  3. Mariasavina Severino2,
  4. Alessandro Parodi1,
  5. Giovanni Morana2,
  6. Andrea Sannia1,
  7. Armando Cama3,
  8. Luca Antonio Ramenghi1
  1. 1Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Istituto Giannina Gaslini, Genoa, Italy
  2. 2Pediatric Neuroradiology Unit, Istituto Giannina Gaslini, Genoa, Italy
  3. 3Neurosurgery Unit, Istituto Giannina Gaslini, Genoa, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Dr Mariya Malova, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Istituto Giannina Gaslini, pad. 13, Via Gerolamo Gaslini, 5, Genoa 16148, Italy; mmalova{at}


Objective Many neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) have adopted the practice of performing routine brain MRI in very low birth weight (VLBW) infants at term-equivalent age in order to better evaluate prematurity-related acquired lesions. A number of unexpected brain abnormalities of potential clinical significance can be visualised on routine scans as well. The aim of our study was to describe these incidental findings (IFs) in a VLBW population and to assess their clinical significance.

Study design We retrospectively reviewed a series of brain MRI scans performed in VLBW infants consecutively admitted to our NICU between November 2011 and November 2014. IFs on brain MRI, which were not detected by cranial ultrasound nor suspected clinically, were registered. Clinical significance of IF was assessed in terms of need of further diagnostic or therapeutic interventions.

Results IFs were detected in 28 out of 276 VLBW infants (10.1%). In total, 21 cases (7.6%) required an intervention, which was only diagnostic in 16 cases, and both diagnostic and therapeutic in 5 cases. In the remaining seven cases (2.5%), no further action was considered necessary.

Conclusions This study suggests that IFs on brain MRI of VLBW infants are not rare. In our population, most of them required a diagnostic or therapeutic intervention. The need and appropriateness of routine MRI scanning in VLBW at term-equivalent age are still subject of debate, and we believe our data can contribute meaningfully to this discussion.

  • brain
  • VLBW
  • incidental finding
  • Imaging
  • preterm

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  • Contributors All the authors have contributed significantly to the work. MM, AP and LAR contributed to study planning and design, data collection and analysis, and manuscript writing. AR contributed to interpretation of collected data and to manuscript writing. AS and AC contributed to patient recruitment. MS and GM collected and analysed MRI data. All authors participated in revising the manuscript and approved the final version before publication.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The study was approved by our local ethics committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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