Incidental findings on routine brain MRI scans in preterm infants

Mariya Malova, Andrea Rossi, Mariasavina Severino, Alessandro Parodi, Giovanni Morana, Andrea Sannia, Armando Cama, Luca Antonio Ramenghi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)F73-F78
JournalArchives of Disease in Childhood: Fetal and Neonatal Edition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017


  • Brain
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Journal Article


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