Cerebral hypoxia and ischemia in preterm infants

Alberto Ravarino, Maria Antonietta Marcialis, Maria Cristina Pintus, Vassilios Fanos, Laura Vinci, Monica Piras, Gavino Faa


Premature birth is a major public health issue internationally affecting 13 million babies worldwide. Hypoxia and ischemia is probably the commonest type of acquired brain damage in preterm infants. The clinical manifestations of hypoxic-ischemic injury in survivors of premature birth include a spectrum of cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities. Until recently, the extensive brain abnormalities in preterm neonates appeared to be related mostly to destructive processes that lead to substantial deletion of neurons, axons, and glia from necrotic lesions in the developing brain. Advances in neonatal care coincide with a growing body of evidence that the preterm gray and white matter frequently sustain less severe insults, where tissue destruction is the minor component. Periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) is the major form of white matter injury and consists classically of focal necrotic lesions, with subsequent cyst formation, and a less severe but more diffuse injury to cerebral white mater, with prominent astrogliosis and microgliosis but without overt necrosis. With PVL a concomitant injury occurs to subplate neurons, located in the subcortical white matter. Severe hypoxic-ischemic insults that trigger significant white matter necrosis are accompanied by neuronal degeneration in cerebral gray and white matter.

This review aims to illustrate signs of cerebral embryology of the second half of fetal life and correlate hypoxic-ischemic brain injury in the premature infant. This should help us better understand the symptoms early and late and facilitate new therapeutic strategies.


Proceedings of the International Course on Perinatal Pathology (part of the 10th International Workshop on Neonatology · October 22nd-25th, 2014) · Cagliari (Italy) · October 25th, 2014 · The role of the clinical pathological dialogue in problem solving

Guest Editors: Gavino Faa, Vassilios Fanos, Peter Van Eyken


hypoxic-ischemic brain injury; preterm infants; white matter injury; periventricular leukomalacia; subplate zone; connectome

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