To determine if patterns of hypoxic-ischemic brain injury on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in term newborns predict subsequent childhood epilepsy.
This retrospective cohort study includes term newborns with encephalopathy (n = 181) born between 2004-2012 and admitted to British Columbia Children’s Hospital. MRI was performed between 3 and 5 days of age. The predominant patterns of hypoxic-ischemic injury were classified as Normal, Watershed, Basal Nuclei, Total, and Focal-Multifocal. Lesions in hippocampus, motor and occipital cortex were noted.
Of 181 newborns, 166 (92%) survived the neonatal period, and 132 (80%) had follow-up with a median duration of 61 months (IQR: 28–95). Twenty-three children (17%) developed epilepsy. A higher proportion with Watershed, Basal Nuclei, or Total patterns developed epilepsy ( P < .001). Injury to motor cortex, hippocampus, and occipital lobe ( P < .01) were independent risk factors for epilepsy. In the adjusting logistic model, Watershed (odds ratio = 16.0, 95% CI [1.3, 197.2], P = .03) and Basal Nuclei injury (odds ratio = 19.4, 95% CI [1.9, 196.3], P = .01) remained independent risk factors. Therapeutic hypothermia did not alter these associations. Severity of brain injury and recurrent neonatal seizures are other clinical risk factors.
In term newborns with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, the predominant pattern of Watershed and Basal Nuclei injury are valuable predictors for development of epilepsy in later childhood.