MRI identification of early white matter injury in anoxic-ischemic encephalopathy

Julio A. Chalela, Ronald L. Wolf, Joseph A Maldjian, Scott E. Kasner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

132 Scopus citations


Background: Anoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (AIE) affects the gray matter more than the white matter. Recent animal experiments suggest that the white matter is more sensitive to ischemia than previously thought. The authors describe the MRI findings in seven patients with AIE who demonstrate early preferential involvement of the white matter. Materials and methods: A retrospective case series study was performed, including seven patients with AIE who underwent MRI of the brain within 7 days of insult. Demographic information, type of insult, clinical examination findings, EEG findings, and clinical outcome were obtained. MRI studies were reviewed with specific attention to the cortex, deep gray matter, and the white matter structures. Mean apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) was calculated in regions of interest placed in the cerebellar hemispheres, putamen, thalamus, splenium of corpus callosum, centrum semiovale, and medial frontal cortex. Results: The causes of AIE were cardiac arrhythmias in two patients, myocardial infarction in one, drug overdose in two, carbon monoxide poisoning in one, and respiratory failure and sepsis in one. The median time to MRI was 2.5 days. Symmetric areas of restricted diffusion were found in the periventricular white matter tracts (7/7 patients), the corpus callosum (6/7 patients), internal capsule (5/7 patients), and the subcortical association fibers (3/7 patients). ADC maps confirmed the restricted diffusion. Gray matter involvement was seen in three patients, and was more prominent on conventional imaging sequences compared with diffusion-weighted imaging. A subtle decrease in mean ADC was seen in cortex. Conclusions: Prominent, symmetric restricted diffusion can occur early after AIE in white matter, whereas gray matter involvement may be less prominent. Further studies involving a larger sample and serial imaging are required to confirm these preliminary findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-485
Number of pages5
Issue number4
StatePublished - Feb 27 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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