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Introduction: The usefulness of qualitative or quantitative volumetric magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in early detection of brain structural changes and prediction of adverse outcomes in neonatal illnesses warrants further investigation. Our aim was to correlate certain brain injuries and the brain volume of feeding-related cortical and subcortical regions with feeding method at discharge among preterm dysphagic infants.

Materials and methods: Using a retrospective observational study design, we examined MRI data among 43 (22 male; born at 31.5 ± 0.8 week gestation) infants who went home on oral feeding or gastrostomy feeding (G-tube). MRI scans were segmented, and volumes of brainstem, cerebellum, cerebrum, basal ganglia, thalamus, and vermis were quantified, and correlations were made with discharge feeding outcomes. Chi-squared tests were used to evaluate MRI findings vs. feeding outcomes. ANCOVA was performed on the regression model to measure the association of maturity and brain volume between groups.

Results: Out of 43 infants, 44% were oral-fed and 56% were G-tube fed at hospital discharge (but not at time of the study). There was no relationship between qualitative brain lesions and feeding outcomes. Volumetric analysis revealed that cerebellum was greater (p < 0.05) in G-tube fed infants, whereas cerebrum volume was greater (p < 0.05) in oral-fed infants. Other brain regions did not show volumetric differences between groups.

Conclusion: This study concludes that neither qualitative nor quantitative volumetric MRI findings correlate with feeding outcomes. Understanding the complexity of swallowing and feeding difficulties in infants warrants a comprehensive and in-depth functional neurological assessment.


Copyright © 2017 Kashou, Dar, El-Mahdy, Pluto, Smith, Gulati, Lo and Jadcherla. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.