Neuroradiology - Original Article

Clinical outcomes of neonatal hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy evaluated with diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging

  • Yasin Dağ
  • Ahmet Kemal Fırat
  • Hakkı Muammer Karakaş
  • Alpay Alkan
  • Cengiz Yakıncı
  • Gülnur Erdem

Received Date: 13.11.2005 Accepted Date: 14.04.2006 Diagn Interv Radiol 2006;12(3):109-114


Detection of early phase neurological deficit in babies with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is the most important step to determine the appropriate preventive treatment methods. Diffusion-weighted imaging (DWI) is the most sensitive radiological modality to detect ischemic changes in the brain, in their earliest phase. Herein, we present the results of our study about the role of DWI in the diagnosis and determining the prognosis of HIE in neonates.


The study included 36 cases (4 preterm, 32 term babies) who were diagnosed with HIE within 24 hours of birth and classified according to modified Sarnat staging. They were examined for the presence of neurological sequelae at 3 and 6 months of age with electroencephalography (EEG), visual evoked potential (VEP), brainstem auditory evoked potential (BAEP), and Denver II developmental screening tests. All 36 patients underwent conventional magnetic resonance (MR) imaging and DWI within the first 24 hours of birth; survivors underwent repetitive imaging exams at the end of the first week and then after a month.


Seventeen stage I cases (47%), 12 stage II cases (33%), and 7 stage III cases (20%) were detected. DWI obtained within the first 24 hours showed high sensitivity (100%) in detecting the permanent neurological sequelae but with very low specificity (20%). The negative predictive value of DWI in this period was 100%; however, in DWI obtained at the end of the first month, not only its sensitivity was preserved, but its specificity reached 80%. The negative predictive value of DWI in this period was preserved and the positive predictive value improved. The importance of DWI in detecting sequelae at the end of the first month was also demonstrated by McNemar (p = 0.250) and Kappa (Kappa = 0.719) tests. There was no difference between conventional MR imaging and DWI in detecting sequelae at the end of first month.


DWI is superior to other imaging modalities in detecting ischemia; not only because of its high sensitivity in the early phase, but also because of its high sensitivity and specificity in the late phase. Moreover, with its high negative predictive value, DWI can be used for excluding the possibility of sequelae development in the early phase of HIE cases for medico-legal purposes.