Objective: To investigate if magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an accurate predictor for death or moderate-severe disability at 18-22 months of age among infants with neonatal encephalopathy in a trial of cooling initiated at 6-24 hours.
Study design: Sub-group analysis of infants ≥ 36 weeks of gestation with moderate-severe neonatal encephalopathy randomized at 6-24 postnatal hours to hypothermia or usual care in a multicenter trial of late hypothermia. MRI scans were performed per each center’s practice and interpreted by two central readers using the NICHD injury score (six levels, normal to hemispheric devastation). Neurodevelopmental outcomes were assessed at 18-22 months of age.
Results: Of 168 enrollees, 128 had an interpretable MRI and were seen in follow-up (n=119) or died (n=9). MRI findings were predominantly acute injury and did not differ by cooling treatment. At 18-22 months, death or severe disability occurred in 20.3%. No infant had moderate disability. Agreement between central readers was moderate (weighted Kappa 0.56, 95% confidence interval 0.45-0.67). The adjusted odds of death or severe disability increased 3.7-fold (95% confidence interval 1.8-7.9) for each increment of injury score. The area under the curve for severe MRI patterns to predict death or severe disability was 0.77 and the positive and negative predictive values were 36% and 100%, respectively.
Conclusion: MRI injury scores were associated with neurodevelopmental outcome at 18-22 months among infants in the Late Hypothermia Trial. However, the results suggest caution when using qualitative interpretations of MRI images to provide prognostic information to families following perinatal hypoxia-ischemia.