Cerebral magnetic resonance biomarkers in neonatal encephalopathy: a meta-analysis

Sudhin Thayyil, Manigandan Chandrasekaran, Andrew Taylor, Alan Bainbridge, Ernest B Cady, W K Kling Chong, Shahed Murad, Rumana Z Omar, Nicola J Robertson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Accurate prediction of neurodevelopmental outcome in neonatal encephalopathy (NE) is important for clinical management and to evaluate neuroprotective therapies. We undertook a meta-analysis of the prognostic accuracy of cerebral magnetic resonance (MR) biomarkers in infants with neonatal encephalopathy.

METHODS: We reviewed all studies that compared an MR biomarker performed during the neonatal period with neurodevelopmental outcome at > or =1 year. We followed standard methods recommended by the Cochrane Diagnostic Accuracy Method group and used a random-effects model for meta-analysis. Summary receiver operating characteristic curves and forest plots of each MR biomarker were calculated. chi(2) tests examined heterogeneity.

RESULTS: Thirty-two studies (860 infants with NE) were included in the meta-analysis. For predicting adverse outcome, conventional MRI during the neonatal period (days 1-30) had a pooled sensitivity of 91% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 87%-94%) and specificity of 51% (95% CI: 45%-58%). Late MRI (days 8-30) had higher sensitivity but lower specificity than early MRI (days 1-7). Proton MR spectroscopy deep gray matter lactate/N-acetyl aspartate (Lac/NAA) peak-area ratio (days 1-30) had 82% overall pooled sensitivity (95% CI: 74%-89%) and 95% specificity (95% CI: 88%-99%). On common study analysis, Lac/NAA had better diagnostic accuracy than conventional MRI performed at any time during neonatal period. The discriminatory powers of the posterior limb of internal capsule sign and brain-water apparent diffusion coefficient were poor.

CONCLUSIONS: Deep gray matter Lac/NAA is the most accurate quantitative MR biomarker within the neonatal period for prediction of neurodevelopmental outcome after NE. Lac/NAA may be useful in early clinical management decisions and counseling parents and as a surrogate end point in clinical trials that evaluate novel neuroprotective therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e382-95
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2010


  • Aspartic Acid/analogs & derivatives
  • Basal Ganglia/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia-Ischemia, Brain/diagnosis
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactates/analysis
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Prognosis
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


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