Introduction We aimed to investigate the long-term effects of preterm birth on the white matter of the brain using diffusion tensor imaging data.
Methods Using a 1.5 T GE scanner we examined 143 individuals (69 controls) at the average age of 14.6 years. The protocol included 30 diffusion directions and four b0 images. Due to excessive movement artifacts we excluded 12 subjects (seven controls). The images of the remaining 131 individuals were corrected for distortions before fitting of the tensor. Fractional anisotropy (FA) images formed the basis for comparison between the two groups.
Results Surprisingly, we could not identify voxels in which the difference in FA values of the two groups was statistically significant after correcting for multiple comparisons. On average the reduction in FA values of preterm children was less than 0.05, which may have biological significance but statistically it cannot be shown (see fig).
Conclusions These preliminary results are unexpected and need to be further verified. Should the results be unaltered the conclusions include at least two possibilities: one that preterm children do not differ from term-born counterparts or two, that FA images may not be appropriate for this investigation. Furthermore, the results may be specific to graduates of the same or similar neonatal intensive care units.