BACKGROUND. Symptomatic neonatal hypoglycemia may be associated with later neurodevelopmental impairment. Brain injury patterns identified on early MRI scans and their relationships to the nature of the hypoglycemic insult and neurodevelopmental outcomes are poorly defined.

METHODS. We studied 35 term infants with early brain MRI scans after symptomatic neonatal hypoglycemia (median glucose level: 1 mmol/L) without evidence of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy. Perinatal data were compared with equivalent data from 229 term, neurologically normal infants (control subjects), to identify risk factors for hypoglycemia. Neurodevelopmental outcomes were assessed at a minimum of 18 months.

RESULTS. White matter abnormalities occurred in 94% of infants with hypoglycemia, being severe in 43%, with a predominantly posterior pattern in 29% of cases. Cortical abnormalities occurred in 51% of infants; 30% had white matter hemorrhage, 40% basal ganglia/thalamic lesions, and 11% an abnormal posterior limb of the internal capsule. Three infants had middle cerebral artery territory infarctions. Twenty-three infants (65%) demonstrated impairments at 18 months, which were related to the severity of white matter injury and involvement of the posterior limb of the internal capsule. Fourteen infants demonstrated growth restriction, 1 had macrosomia, and 2 had mothers with diabetes mellitus. Pregnancy-induced hypertension, a family history of seizures, emergency cesarean section, and the need for resuscitation were more common among case subjects than control subjects.

CONCLUSIONS. Patterns of injury associated with symptomatic neonatal hypoglycemia were more varied than described previously. White matter injury was not confined to the posterior regions; hemorrhage, middle cerebral artery infarction, and basal ganglia/thalamic abnormalities were seen, and cortical involvement was common. Early MRI findings were more instructive than the severity or duration of hypoglycemia for predicting neurodevelopmental outcomes.

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