Clinical observations and findings on imaging are reported in six newborns with symmetrical thalamic lesions (STL). In three cases the diagnosis was confirmed by postmortem examination. Characteristic observations in this series and 17 previously reported cases include no evidence of perinatal asphyxia, high incidence of polyhydramnios, absent suck and swallow, absent primitive reflexes, appreciable spasticity at or within days of birth, lack of psychomotor development, and death within days or months. Characteristic pathological findings include loss of neurons, astrogliosis, and 'incrusted' neurons particularly in the thalamus. In two thirds of cases the basal ganglia and brain stem are involved as well. A hypoxic-ischaemic event occurring two to four weeks before birth is most likely responsible for STL. Bilateral thalamic calcification can often, but not always, be demonstrated in the newborn period by computed tomography and/or cranial ultrasound. The presence of these calcifications and the observation of spasticity at birth imply that the responsible insult occurred at least two to four weeks earlier. The small number of published cases with STL suggest that it may be easily missed.
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